It's late so I only read about half and skimmed the rest but very impressive work.
Void's Edge [Xu Méi]
Introduction. It should come as no surprise that the greatest black market in the multiverse, the Teardrop Palace of Sung Chiang, has attracted settlers who want to live nearby. While other thief gods, like Kurell of Oerth, Mask of Toril, Loki of the Norse, and Vhaeraun of the drow, tend to maintain realms that are little more than hideouts, places for them to escape the company of other gods when things get too hot, Sung Chiang enjoys civilized company, and is pleased to invite visitors to his market to buy and sell stolen things. While other thief gods are outcasts or rebels, Sung Chiang is a member in good standing of the Celestial Bureaucracy, given his position because the Celestial Emperor sees thievery as a part of existence as deserving of representation as any other.
While proximity to Sung Chiang's realm is an excellent reason to build a city, the fact of the matter is that the city was there long before Sung Chiang built a palace in it. Positioned as it is on the River Styx, next to portals to the Outlands and Baator, the same accessibility that attracted Sung Chiang has attracted many others in the long millennia of the city's existence. It's the center of the trade in nupperibos, the site of an ancient barghest fortress, and one of the easiest places to find tso. It's the city of Void's Edge, and it's one of the most cosmopolitan places in the Lower Planes.
Character. Void's Edge, also called Xu Méi, Furnace's Edge, the City of Ravens, City of Thieves, City on the Edge of Never, Neverland, the City of Lost Children, City on the Edge, and simply the Edge, is, despite all its many faults, the most benign spot in all of Gehenna, the closest point on the plane to the Outlands. Just neutral enough to retain its position on the edge of the void, near the glaring red orb that leads to Torch, but more than evil enough to remain within the plane, the City on the Edge has remained remarkably stable. It has endured in this tenuous position for as long as any but the vaporighu remember. It is an old city, seemingly immune to the philosophical changes that tip so many other planar burgs into other planes.
The town is 'loths' eyes and crows' tongues, deception and cruel exploitation and hidden darks. It is a city on the edge of the greatest black market in the multiverse, on the edge of the most appalling sins, on the edge of the River Styx, on the edge of Gehenna and the edge of Hell.
Inhabitants. The people of Void's Edge are primarily human and tiefling, characterized by their pale skins, often stained with soot. While many of them resemble humans from lands where Sung Chiang is worshiped, this is by no means true of all of them, as the city draws citizens from across the planes looking for wealth and secrets. There is a substantial minority of oni, many of them associated with the Planar Trade Consortium. Of course, plenty of Gehennan natives and beings from all over the planes have reasons to enter the city, including mercanes, barghests, kytons, phiuhls, diakka, night hags, and more.
Thousands of linqua dwell within the Teardrop Palace, and thousands more, exiled by the whimsical Sung Chiang, dwell in the city outside the palace gates, stealing, begging, or hiring themselves out. Their innate ability to discern truth from lies makes them as valuable as thief-catchers as thieves.
The city's population of ravens is particularly large, ranging from the gray-feathered ravens of Sigil to simpathetics to enormous fiendish creatures the size of horses. Most of the population ignore them, considering their death to be an ill omen.
Mephits are common vermin in the city, particularly steam and magma mephits, who steal food and work as messengers while quarreling among themselves.
Yugoloths encountered here include mostly hydroloths, piscoloths, skeroloths, and mezzoloths under the command of a nycoloth known as the Eyes of Gog Sheklah, a nycoloth with eyes on the palms of his hands, who serves the blind ultroloth lord Gog Sheklah, the ruler of most of the 'loths on the layer of Khalas. Arcanaloths teach at the Academy of Perdition in the Scholars Quarter; these greater yugoloths are their own masters, responsible to no one but the Keeper of the Tower Arcane in Chamada. The baatezu soldiers stationed in the burg are under the ultimate command of Dagos of the Dark Eight, and locally commanded by a cornugon sorcerer named Sourmanymous, or Sourm for short, who runs the city's Office of Infernal Recruitment. There is some tension with the large community of baatezu who have fled or been exiled from Baator, but the soldiers are under orders not to cause unnecessary trouble. Tanar'ri can occasionally be seen as well; the city is officially "neutral ground" in the eternal Blood War, though fights between baatezu and tanar'ri occasionally break out. The tanar'ri generally keep to their own bars and contacts; they are most common on the Street of Shadows and its vicinity.
Vaporighu are an uncommon sight on the city's surface, often hiding themselves away in their rooms and operating businesses through proxies, though night hags have some unknown connection with them and are known to deal with them directly. Some believe the night hags played a role in the race's creation, helping warp them into their present forms at the rilmani's behest, or perhaps the opposite is true and the vaporighu hope the night hags can turn them back. Deep in the tunnels beneath the streets are said to be a cabal of ancient vaporighu who founded the city in times forgotten. They dwell in a secret underground chamber and send instructions to their minions in the land above. Some claim the ravens and crows are their messengers, but this is untrue. Any instructions the mayor may get from the city's ravens come from them alone.
The spidery tso are a nomadic people, but they are in Void's Edge, docking their aracheon airships at the city's edge, as often as they are anywhere else, coming to the Teardrop Palace to trade their ill-gotten goods, buying shipbuilding supplies from the mercane, or taking on jobs in the Dock Quarter. Tso do not reproduce as mammals do, but create young by injecting their elders with strange venoms. Accordingly, instead of going to brothels while on "shore leave," they go to poisoning parlors where they sublimate their racial urges by poisoning victims for a fee. The gate to Torch is the only lower planar Outlands gateway really built to allow entire flying ships to pass through, so this is one of the most important sites for aracheon traffic. Elsewhere, they typically move across planes using Acheron's portals and the River Styx.
Rakshasas are uncommon in the city, as they have strong ties to their raja in Baator's city of Abattoir, and they tend not to get along with the native oni of Void's Edge. When they arrive, it is usually to buy or sell slaves, or to vacation amid the opulance of the Crystal Quarter.
Feral orphans run through the streets, fleeing the child catchers and their hounds. Pirates from the River Styx or the empty void dock to resupply or buy clockwork grafts for their missing limbs. Night hags stand on street corners, hawking dreams.
Wealthy families in Void's Edge include the Ravencrofts, a family of wereravens from Oerth who have been corrupted into evil, or at least neutrality. The current mayor is a Ravencroft, though he has familial ties to the Zannifers, since his mother was one.
Zannifer is a tiefling house, a remnant of the empire of Bael Turath, which in its heyday dominated most of the lower planar gate-towns. The Zannifers of the City on the Edge are substantially less human than prime tieflings, having interbred with yugoloths and worse things, and they have an insectoid cast to their features.
The Unterbrinks are a family of fire mages, descended from an ancient race of planar wanderers who have mostly disappeared from the planes in recent centuries. Most of the Unterbrinks are wu jen.
Description. The city squats at the precipice between the bulk of Khalas and the void beyond. The blood-red orb that is the portal to Torch is visible in the darkness a quarter-mile or so away, looking like a disembodied eye staring at those who peer over the brink (and the existence of the big glaring eye looking over the city may be part of the reason people think the sliver of land Sung Chiang's realm is built on looks like a teardrop). A berk with careful aim can land on the docks set up by the town's inhabitants, but the best way there and back is to fly. A tiefling named Tai Ji-li, a gray-skinned basher with an oddly elongated head, runs a foulwing taxi service from one plane to another. Escapees from Carceri have attempted to use skin balloons and spinnarets, with uniformly disastrous results. Aracheon and other airships regularly make the journey, docking at Gehenna's edge or Torch's spires.
While many in Void's Edge are human, the city was obviously not constructed with human comfort in mind. The air chokes and burns; a drop of water from the River Styx can destroy minds.
Row after row of ancient tenements make up the majority of the town. In the center of the River Styx is the Island of Spires, an isle covered with tall, elderly mansions, connected to the rest of the city by a bridge made with the living, flapping bodies of baatezu. The cold river Styx underneath washes waves of hate against the dikes and shore that disperse amongst the populace like petulant mist before flowing into Baator.
The Styx flows down from the peak of Khalas down to the base of the city where it spreads out like a tilted delta, side-channels disappearing into pits underground to unknown planes. The mainstem flows into Baator near the city of Abattoir; another channel flows into Wreychtmirk in Acheron, and still another flows into the Gray Waste. Others have channels whose destinations vary wildly; only the marraenaloths can predict them. Some are thought to occasionally flow through Sigil or the Material Plane, or even Durao in the Abyss.
Other subterranean pits lead to other parts of Baator and the Waste, and to lower layers of Gehenna, though some are incorrectly marked, and some are just bottomless pits. Deep beneath the city are still ruins of the long-ago occupations of the sarrukh and insectoid Lost Ones. The portal to Chamada leads near the orb of Nimicri.
The lower half of the city is relatively (but not entirely) flat, because it was once part of the Outlands. There the River Styx splits into six different branches like a river delta; many arched bridges knit together the different sections of the city, though no bridge connects the city to the steep and inhospitable left (Wasteward) bank of the river's mainstem; to cross the mainstem of the Styx, one must travel up a steep path for approximately a day's journey to the Bridge of Khalas, one of the most savagely contested battlefields of the Blood War. The upper half of the city is built on a 45 degree angle and knit together by stairs. This half is newer, constructed as the lower city ran out of space. The most prominent part of the upper city is Teardrop Island, a flat ledge separated from the rest of the city by two channels of molten lava. The lava curves around a sheltering cliff face and joins into a single channel some distance downslope, forming the impression of a teardrop. Against the cliff face is the tallest building in the city, the Teardrop Palace, home of the deity Sung Chiang. Outside Sung Chiang's fifty-foot high gates, but still on Teardrop Island, is the city's religious quarter, where temples of many different deities are clustered closely together under the protection of the god of archers, Chih-Chiang Fyu-Ya.
The Baatorient Express runs beneath the Crystal District, Teardrop Island, Cattle Market, and Dock Quarter in Void's Edge and across the planar boundary to the city of Abattoir in Baator. It is not very old, having been built only a few years ago using Eberron's lightning rail technology. The plan is to eventually expand it to stretch all the way to Bel's citadel, though the badlands of Avernus are dangerous and this ambition may not be realized for a long time.
The Dock Quarter comprises the region between the River Styx and the edge of Khalas. There are actually two sets of docks, one set servicing Styx traffic and the other servicing traffic from the void, most of which comes from the portal to Torch, though not exclusively so. Some races, particularly the tso, have flying ships they use to travel the edge of Khalas and the void beyond.
The Dock Quarter is filled with shops, stalls, warehouses, and shipbuilding facilities. The largest area in the Dock Quarter, along the Styx side, is the Cattle Market, where nupperibos from Baator are brought to be sold to the yugoloths. Other slaves and food animals (they are treated interchangeably here) are sold in the same markets. Yugoloths and barghests capture Gehennan petitioners for sale in these markets, spidery tso sell slaves here from throughout the lawful planes, and various forms of lower planar cattle are brought here to be slaughtered.(gathras, larvae, slasraths, stench kine, thunderbeasts, abrians, fhorges, rejkars, and so on). The Street of Shadows winds through the heart of the Dock Quarter; for thousands of years it has been the home of the city's shadow fiends, who create buildings and works of art out of sculpted darkness, and wait in the shadows to trade stolen souls. Raw and finished materials from the mining towns upstream on the Styx, places like the duergar town of Maelgrim and the grimlock town of Morgrim, are brought to the docks here and into the industrial Boiler district.
Enzog's is a store stocked with evil dolls (carrionettes) who prey on children who come too near. Enzog himself is a craftsman who is said to hail from a city of witches somewhere in the Gray Waste. Pan Fa-liang, a renegade ghost from Fo Ling Po, creates tattooed memories on commission. A night hag or tiefling called Jenny Henna will make similar henna tattoos; the ghost considers her a thief and a rival. Brothels sport names like House of Bliss, House of Charm, and House of Suffering.
The Planar Trade Consortium has one of its major headquarters here, in a massive, many-columned building known locally simply as the Planar Trade Consortium or the Consortium Building. There are others, of course, in places as diverse as Tradegate, Yeoman, and Sigil, but here it is at its most ruthless, with oni, tso, duergar, and - perhaps worst of all - humans teaming about, using the city's position astride the layer's most frequently traveled portals to make a killing.
The Church of One Thousand Agonies is in the trade district on the mainland, near a lava fountain. This is where the n'gathau (Tome of Horrors II) are based. The n'gathau are a race of horribly mutilated, stitched-together humanoids based in Mungoth, although chant has it that they originated in Ocanthus, where they are gearing up for war with the bladelings. They trade liquid agony in exchange for living flesh, and eagerly accept limbs, organs, or entire people from the poor, the desperate, and the murderously greedy, using what they gain to create more of their kind. The ancient shadow fiend district is nearby.
The Vault of the Misers is an impregnable fortress in the Dock Quarter. Chant has it that the Merkhants within have taken to worshiping their bank as a god, and that somewhere within its heart is a huge, hungry maw, the mouth of the living building itself, that the Merkhants feed with the bodies of those who default on loans.
The markets of Void's Edge are actually among the most reputable in the planes. Visitors can be sure the things they purchase there were not stolen, because ubiquitous little linquas dispatched by Sung Chiang use their ability to detect lies to ensure that this is the case. Sung Chiang is a jealous enough god that he wishes the markets in his palace to be the only place in the city where stolen goods can be bought or sold.
The Crystal District is as unlike the rest of the city as is imaginable, full of brilliantly shining crystalline buildings like something from the Seven Heavens. It's a place of pleasure palaces, casinos, and gardens, with the aim of attracting wealthy tourists to the city from other planes of existence. The Million Ways is a restaurant built at the very end of the city; circular in shape and made of perfectly clear crystal, it extends over the void so that diners can look down into the face of oblivion as they eat. The vaporighu-run casino is called the Rattling Skull. The price of defaulting on gambling debts is slavery, usually involving being sold to a brothel or the n'gathau.
The Office of Infernal Recruitment, located in the Crystal District, is part brothel, part embassy, and part college of magic run by Baator's Ministry of Mortal Relations. Its standards are very lax; they will accept nearly anyone, and the focus is on creating an entertaining, appealing college experience to bring in as many students as possible. Despite this, rigorous testing ensures that the most talented students are given special training to become Baator's agents in the city and throughout the planes. For those who fall short, the tutors (mostly imps) focus on ensuring their souls are adequately corrupted, at which point they are quietly killed so that those souls will pass into Baator.
The Boiler is the city's industrial district, full of forges, refineries, textile mills, and so on. Lower-class bars are fairly common in this district as well, such as the Cuckoo's Nest, which serves barghests and goblins, primarily, and Perdition's Loss, which serves a primarily human and tiefling worker clientele. The Boiler is one of the hottest parts of town, very close to the rivers of lava.
The subtly-named Slopes of Agony is the home of the poorest of the poor, the dregs of the dregs. These are shacks and hovels clustered around the city's perimeter, vulnerable to Gehennan horrors and spraying lava but with none of the amenities of the town proper like paved roads or gutters designed to channel filth into the river.
The Scholars Quarter is the home of most of the city's centers of higher learning. Universitities in the Scholars Quarter include the Institute of the Applied Evolution, a place of vile experiments run by a brain in a jar called Zhu Bin-rui. Human-animal hybrids, sold as slaves, are common results of the institute's experiments. Experimental stock is purchased from local slavers and the city zoos. This university is primarily known as a college of medicine, and most of the city's doctors are trained here. Experiments are done involving dreams, taking apart sleeping test subjects' brains from within and vivisecting night hags. There are experiments on aging, adding decades to the age of children and taking it away from the old. No magic is practiced here, but much is done to figure out how to activate psionic talent through surgical means or through drugs, and the college is the closest thing the city offers to a training facility for psions. A group of illithids, refugees from Maanzecorian's realm, have recently joined the faculty. It is rumored that if Zhu Bin-rui could ever learn to dream again himself, his experiments would end.
The Academy of Perdition is the Scholars Quarter's other major university. Founded long ago by the Flayed Lord, its professors are primarily arcanaloths and baatezu exiles, training wizards and warlocks in the dark arts. The Unterbrink family has been associated with this university since they arrived in the city; they are its primary contributors, and every member of the family is expected to be educated within its confines. For those not related to graduates of the academy, standards are rigorous and the school is very difficult to get into.
There are no public schools in Void's Edge. Educations must be paid for, and the city isn't going to do it. Many go to religious schools, especially the one sponsored by the god of truth and testing, Chung Kuel.
The Island of Spires is the city's wealthiest district, an island in the River Styx connected to the mainland by the Bridge of Devils. On the Island of Spires is the manors of the city's elite families and fiends, the mayor's mansion, and an exiled vampire queen in a palace of mirrors, with mirror mephit servants. She was cast from a parallel universe by the nerra, who will do anything to keep her out.
Teardrop Island, between the two lava flows known as Weeping Agony and the River of Boiling Tears, is the section of town where the Teardrop Palace is. Beyond the palace's fifty-foot gates is the city's temple quarter, including temples to every god in the Chinese pantheon as well as many prominent Gehennan deities such as Mellifleur, Sargonnas, and Math Mathonwy. Sung Chiang does not consider other deities to be a threat as long as they're not gods of thieves; followers of other thief-gods tend to keep their faith a secret within town.
Menageries: The private menagerie of the Zannifer family consists of cobbled paths among small adamantium cages containing baku, slasraths, horses, alligators, bar-lgura, thunderbeasts, quasits, abrians, a darklore, a troll, a Giant Space Hamster of Ill Omen, bugbears, hollyphants, humans, bonespears, terlens, fhorges, and even a small white dragon, all cared for by screaming devilkin in the family's employ. The public is not permitted to view this menagerie, though guests of the family may be invited to see the displays. The family mostly stocks its menagerie with gifts given to them by guests hoping to impress them, so its collection is fairly random.
The Unterbrink family maintains the Menagerie of Flames, displaying, in cages set above and within a pool of magma, fire-related creatures from the Elemental Plane of Fire, Gehenna, Baator, the Abyss, the Quasielemental Planes of Steam and Ash, and the Paraelemental Planes of Magma and Smoke. The beasts are fed by mephits, mainly steam and lava. The Unterbrinks will pay a flat rate of 1000 gp for exotic creatures of fire. The public is permitted to view it for 2 sp a visit, but the environment is swelteringly hot.
The Ravencroft family maintains an aviary with thousands of different bird species in a high tower on their family estate. It is not available for public viewing, but the Ravencrofts are always interested in purchasing exotic birds.
Most of the Edge's prominent families have their own private menageries, and it is believed that Sung Chiang keeps a menagerie of stolen beasts in one of the private wings of his palace. The public zoo, the Menagerie of the Celestial Realms, is owned by Herab Serap and is the largest and most elaborate menagerie in the city, located in the Crystal District and consisting of seven distinct environments, made to imitate the native environments of the creatures contained within: Wildspace (the void between worlds on the Material Plane), Mount Celestia, Arborea, Arcadia, Elysium, the Beastlands, and Ysgard.
History: Long, long ago, before the age of mammals, the city now known as Void's Edge was called Mirklight, and it was the gate-town to Gehenna in the Outlands, built on the edge of Semuanya's swamp by nameless, squamous things and inhabited subsequently by aboleths, batrachi, sarrukh, aeree, spell weavers, thri-kreen, and the vaguely insectoid race remembered only as the Lost Ones. An army of yugoloths used the town as a staging point to attempt to conquer much of the Land, but - prompted by the rilmani - the swamp and the strange, old powers that dwelled with in it turned against them, warping the entire army into the corrupt, bestial species now known as vaporighu, and Gehenna reclaimed its children, stranding them on the far side of the portal, while the portions of the swamp now in the plane of the Fourfold Furnaces boiled between a river of magma and the River Styx.
In its new home, the city and the great tower the yugoloths had built fell to ruin inhabited solely by the vaporighu and the occasional visitor from the new gate-town of Torch, but eventually the 'loths reclaimed it, using it a place to purchase nupperibos shipped from Baator. The first great expansion of the barghests put a temporary halt to that as the barghest general Ketrolesh used the city as a staging area for his conquest of the plane. The fortress of Ketrolesh was constructed in the central island over the ruins of the yugoloth war-tower, and for another millennia, the barghests used Castle Ketrolesh as their chiefmost stronghold, until the barghest race tore itself apart in the event remembered as the Bitter Feast. After the Bitter Feast ended barghest dominance, the nupperibo trade resumed, the child slaves the barghests had brought to the citadel largely took over the town, and they and their descendants have dominated it ever since, although they suffered periodic conquests by both the tanar'ri and baatezu, the town getting frequently razed and just as frequently rebuilt again after the slaughter was over..
It was to this relatively civilized but put-upon trade city that Sung Chiang came, seeing the River Styx, the portal to Torch, and a great polyglot settlement perfect for his needs. Sung Chiang's presence has largely ended the threat of fiendish conquest and attracted even more trade thanks to his booming market of stolen goods. His proxies also destroyed the lich-like master thieves who had been running the local thieves guilds from deep underground, though it is thought that they may have had phylacteries that enabled them to survive in some form. Ever since then the city has only grown larger and more prosperous, though always at the expense of the poor, the weak, and the enslaved.
Rulers. Tian Ravencroft is the current Lord Mayor. Tian is a corpulent, conservative ruler, an able hand at navigating the city's byzantine politics, but he is getting weaker and his time may be almost done. He is the voice of the city in matters of both internal and external diplomacy, ably dealing with the city's guilds and factions and with the governors of cities abroad. It is a narrow line that Tian walks, but he walks it well. He has no known heirs and the successor he had been grooming, a Ravencroft, has vanished, thought to have been kidnapped or assassinated. His chief rivals are his cousins within House Zannifer, the Unterbrinks, and Bai Tobias, son of Bai Jia-rong.
Behind the Throne. The chief advisor of the mayor is a tall, slender, fiendish-looking humanoid who calls himself Herab Serap. When he first came to the Edge, shortly after the Bridge of Devils was created, he was famed for his ready smile and his easy manner; he shortly became one of the most prominent members of the Edge's baatezu exile community, and used his considerable funds in improvements to the burg, such as the construction of the Menagerie of the Void and much of the Crystal District. Of late, though, he has become much more reclusive and paranoid, and even Mayor Ravencroft rarely sees him emerge from his quarters.
The secret of Herab Serap is that he was once a pit fiend known as Zapan. The third pit fiend to be given that name and head Baator's Ministry of Immortal Diplomacy, he was made a scapegoat after Baator temporarily lost control of the Bridge of Khalas to the tanar'ri. His spirit was rebranded with a new name and he was forced to resign his position, but strangely he was left alive. Fearing this condition would be fleeting, he fled to Gehenna and Void's Edge. Once there, he did his best to ingratiate himself with the yugoloths by selling as many of the Dark Eight's secrets as he knew to Malpheaz, an ultroloth who styles himself Master of Krangath and Lord of the Seven Darks. Malpheaz is a rival of Gog Sheklah, the most powerful ultroloth in Khalas, who is an ally of the Flayed Lord. Since he knows the Dark Eight must be aware of his attempts to turn traitor, he grows more paranoid by the day. He firmly believes both the Flayed Lord and the Dark Eight wish him dead.
The Flayed Lord, known as Liu Fan-lie, is the eldest of the city's baatezu exiles. He was once a vassal of Count Beherit, who ruled Malbolge before the rise of Moloch, but he was banished at the time his liege was executed for hiding a noble baatezu child from the eyes of Asmodeus. The Flayed Lord, who resembles a horned humanoid whose skin has been stripped bare to reveal naked muscles and sinew, rules an estate called the Slope of Flayed Children up-slope from the city, where his castrated immature barghest servants bring him whatever he desires. He spends most of his time in the city itself, with a luxurious mansion on the Island of Spires, and works to reduce the influence of the baatezu in what he considers to be "his" city. The only archdevil he trusts is his fellow exile Gargauth, who exiled himself at the time of Beherit's destruction. When Gargauth comes to town, the Flayed Lord eagerly opens his estate to the Lord Who Watches, hiring a virtual army of guards and servants to make sure nothing goes wrong during the esteemed god's visit. The Flayed Lord despises anything to do with the present diabolic hierarchy or the Dark Eight, and considers Herab Serap to be his greatest rival. When Moloch came to the city recently, recruiting mercenaries for an attempt to take back his realm, he found that none of the other exiled baatezu in the city would speak to him for fear of the Flayed Lord's wrath. Moloch was forced to go to the yugoloths instead.
The Flayed Lord is in many ways almost pure bitterness and hate, and this hatred has crept into the bricks and cobblestones of his adopted city. His adopted city has, in its turn, crept into him. The result of so many millennia among mortals is this: he is not quite as much baatezu as he once was. Something of the hopes and aspirations and dreams of the thousands of mortals that share his city has leaked into him, and while this is scarcely noticeable when the Flayed One is peeling the skin from his victims, the truth is that he has come to genuinely care for his adopted home, and he would do anything to protect it.
Maughdha, the Baroness of Abattoir, is the most important entity in the city who does not actually dwell within the city. Maughdha is the ruler of Abattoir, a shipping and trading city located on Baator's side of the portal just downstream on the River Styx. Descrobed as a massive, thirteen-foot tall amnizu with dozens of mouths and tongues oozing slime all across her body, Maughdha wants nothing more than to see Void's Edge pulled across the planar boundary to increase the size and prestige of her own domain. She knows it is beyond her power to pull the Teardrop Palace into another plane against Sung Chiang's will, but she hopes if she steals enough of the town, Sung Chiang will move voluntarily rather than be left alone with no city to explore. To this end, Maughdha has been sending assassins to kill prominent citizens of Void's Edge, and encouraging the spread of Abattoir's baatezu gangs in the Edge. The natural reaction for many devils, confronted with chaos, is to organize themselves. In Abattoir, they do this with frightening gusto, eager to subordinate themselves to any charismatic leader in order to gain new purpose in their existences. These leaders take a variety of forms, from militia leaders who run their gangs like the military to priests of strange cults worshiping gods of blood and filth. These gangs even dominate the wealthy parts of town, where they often manifest as secret societies and cabals. Maughdha is bitterly opposed by both Herab Serap and the Flayed Lord.
Bai Jia-rong is the patriarch of the city's barghests, and therefore ruler of its gangs of goblins and canomorphs as well. He is normally found at aristocratic balls and other social events in humanoid form, dressed richly and wearing an ivory mask shaped like a wolf. He considers himself to be the city's secret ruler, but his stepson Bai Tobias would like to secretly kill him, take control of the city's barghests in his father's name, using this influence to rule Void's Edge openly as its mayor. But Tobias is currently missing, transformed into human form and stripped of his memories, currently living in Sigil. Jia-rong's other chief rival among the barghests is Bei Tiao-bo, who runs his own independent gangs. The goblins and canomorphs spend more time battling with gangs of baatezu and tieflings inspired by the baroness Maughdha of Baator than one another.
Goblin gangs include the Voidhounds, the Hellhounds, and the Styxhounds. Canomorph packs include Oblivion's Teeth and the Thorns of Khalas.
The Childcatcher's Union is mostly made up of immature barghests who make regular forays to the Material Plane to steal immature humans to be sold in Void's Edge for labor or, occasionally, meat, working in the city's many factories and refineries until they die or prove themselves strong enough to buy citizenship in the city.
The Heartless Lodge is the headquarters of the Fated faction in Void's Edge, and the largest concentration of them in Gehenna in general. In many ways Gehenna exemplifies the worst stereotypes of the faction: the belief that the strong must dominate the weak, and deserve to do so simply because they are strong. The Fated of Gehenna find the natives of the plane so in accord with their beliefs, in fact, that they find they have little to do there. What is the point of working to advance a philosophy where everyone already agrees with you? As a result, the Heartless Lodge has become little more than more of an adventurer's club, where members of the faction meet to purchase equipment - climbing gear, rings of fire resistance, elemental homunculi masks to filter out the toxic air, slaves to help carry supplies, and so on - and exchange stories and contacts. Many members of the Fated faction view Gehenna's harshness as the perfect test of their fitness, so their caravans and camps can be found throughout the plane, searching for things to take. And the Void's Edge is the center of this network. The most important Taker in town is Kong Heng-rong, the self-proclaimed Heartless Queen, who dwells in a palace on the Island of Spires.
The Heartless Queen's home is a well-fortified chateau adorned with black hearts and guarded by private bodyguards whose hearts have been physically removed by the n'gathau. She does not care to lead the day-to-day affairs of the Heartless Lodge (that's left to someone appointed by the factol, and might be a good job for a high-level player character) but she is the most influential among the establishment both within her faction's politics and the city's politics as a whole.
The Fated consider the Merkhants, to run the city's largest bank (the Vault of the Misers), to be rivals, and they hope to elevate a member of their faction to the position of mayor. Tian's protege was a Taker, but has since vanished. A number of the senior members of the Zannifer family are Takers as well.
Militia The Edge has a regular police force organized into patrolmen, sergeants, and captains. They are all fighters, mainly of low level, though a few are barbazu. Their uniform is gray and covered with many straps for holding clubs, knives, and mancatchers; their badge is the city's coat of arms: a red, weeping eye. Most of the citizenry regard them with ambivalence at best.
The garrisons of baatezu and yugoloths are the true source of the burg's security. Both fiendish races have reasons to desire the town's continued existence, and they station enough troops in this town to discourage most potential invaders. There has not been a major incursion for centuries, when tanar'ri control of the Bridge of Khalas led to a year-long siege.
The Hatters Guild is a peculiar local institution. Founded 150 years ago shortly after the death of Wrathlin Dyr, the Xaositect founder, it was an attempt by that mad faction to expand from Sigil to Gehenna. It was thoroughly corrupted soon after its arrival, and the locals' obsession with chaos was thoroughly suppressed and even reversed. Today the Hatters Guild has a citywide monopoly over the making of hats, although child laborers do the actual work. What the Hatters actually do is act as mercenary guards and assassins; they are known for their trustworthiness, their strict neutrality in city politics, and the distinctive tall hats they wear, which are often equipped with hidden weapons (for example, the brims may turn out to be razor-sharp discs that can be thrown). The founder of the Hatters Guild, a green slaad, has been transformed into humanoid form, its mind locked away and replaced with something perfectly orderly and mercenary. If it could be freed, it might destroy the Hatters Guild in disgust over what it became.
Child-catchers are a common sight, herding loose children into stern, poorly funded orphanages where they are sometimes bought by one of the businesses in need of cheap labor.
Services. Goods and services available in Void's Edge include weapons and other iron products, cheap labor, human prey, access to several large and portals, rare animals, Styx water, and mercenaries.
The screaming lotus is a plant native to Maladomini, but primarily grown only in the city of Abattoir in Baator. From there it is smuggled into Void's Edge, where it is in high demand among the city's fiends.
The screaming lotus is characterized by its vivid red or purple blossom. To most fiends, including tanar'ri, yugoloths, petitioners, rakshasas, and kytons, its effects are intoxicating but not debilitating. To mortals, it is a deadly poison, and it is this effect that gives the lotus its name. Those who ingest it and fail their Fort saves (DC 15) are wracked with incapacitating pain, allowing them to do nothing but shriek and writhe as the lotus blossoms erupt from their flesh. They would quickly die if not for the fact that the plant keeps its victims horrifyingly alive as long as the plant itself survives, so gardens of screaming lotus plants are filled with the choruses of their tortured hosts. The plant can typically live a year on one victim, though if watered regularly with blood it can survive indefinitely. Harvesting it, however, kills the plant and the victim that now depends on it to survive.
The screaming lotus would surely be found throughout Baator except for one final wrinkle: to baatezu (and tieflings with baatezu blood) it is a powerful narcotic, so potent that those who smoke it, eat it, or drink it brewed in tea must save ( Fortitude, DC 20) or be left comatose in a rapturous, hallucinogenic state for 2d6 hours. Worse still, each subsequent time it is tried the effect only increases (by an additional 2d6 hours if another Fort save is failed). Long-term screaming lotus addicts have sometimes gone into permanent comas, trapped in eternal delight for the length of their immortal lives. For this reason, screaming lotus is strictly forbidden throughout the Nine Hells. There are some to say that the plains of Maladomini were once covered with the blossoms, and it is for this reason that the layer was turned into a ruined waste. Whenever a patch is found, it is destroyed by baatezu patrols by the decree of the Dark Lord of Nessus. Outside Maladomini, living mortals are needed to incubate it, but in Maladomini it grows wild. Since the ascent of Glasya in Malbolge, the plant has spread to that layer as well, feeding off of the tortured flesh of the Hag Countess. What this might say about Maladomini's own past is intriguing.
Current chant. Laraby is a Guvner mage doing research on the society of Baator. From his apartment in the Edge's scholar's quarter, he has been studiously writing. He would appreciate it if someone could find him a rare book called the Codex of Betrayal, a text chronicling the history of Baator; he has quite a substantial grant from his faction. The Flayed Lord is thought to have a copy; Herab Serap is thought to have another, written during a much later era of Baator and incorporating numerous revisions as the "official" history of the plane changed. Laraby, and the Guvners, want both so they can compare and contrast them. Also, a beholder mage has been making trouble for a certain powerful tanar'ri, learning his truename and escaping to the Boiler district in the Edge, where it has assembled a gang of minor baatezu to serve it. Both the tanar'ri and his enemies would be very glad if the beholder could be found.
Once a (prime) year the tides of night swell into the city from the void beyond the layer. On that day, all of the lights in the city are snuffed and all manner of debaucheries take place. Tourists from Sigil are especially common during this Day of Nighttides.
Another popular festival is the Perfumed Days, when the last of the nupperibo shipment are slaughtered or sold, and the citizenry (especially in the Boiler Quarter) celebrate the death of their stench with incense and musk. The festival is presided over by the local phiuhls. A few weeks later, the next shipment usually comes in, and the festival ends.
Endgame. Void's Edge is a hive of sin and terrible exploitation, and player characters may be inclined to Do Something About It. While this sort of ambition might be futile in most lower planar cities, short of razing them to the ground, Void's Edge is... on the edge. Unlike most places on the lower planes, Void's Edge can, in theory, be redeemed. To say this would be tricky would be a considerable understatement, naturally, but causing the City on the Edge to slide into the Outlands is at least a conceivable campaign goal. The most important step would be to end or at least curtail the fiendish influence over the city. Fiends who have lived in Void's Edge for centuries or millennia, like Herab Serap or the Flayed Lord, have absorbed something of humanity with long contact, and just as celestials can fall, fiends can rise. Managing to redeem one of the city's leading fiends might do a lot to push the city toward neutrality. Failing that, simply killing them might help, to a lesser extent. Finding a way to end the slave trade, or at least put the primary slave traders out of commission, could also tilt the city sufficiently toward neutrality. Ending the nupperibo trade by exposing the true nature of nupperibos (see Tales From the Infinite Staircase) could cause the baatezu and yugoloth hierarchies to lose interest in the city, leaving mortals a bigger role in determining the town's destiny for themselves. While mortals aren't going to be able to force Sung Chiang to move if he doesn't want to go, he might decide to follow a city that seems determined to slip across the planar boundary without him. Alternatively, he might remain, and a new city might form around his realm where Void's Edge once stood.
The loss of Void's Edge would be a considerable blow to the yugoloths and the plane of Gehenna, leaving the plane with much less traffic and souls, and leaving the lower layers much less accessible until something new could be created that would entice a comparative amount of interest. Without the regular influx of power that Void's Edge provides, many yugoloth (and baatezu) schemes might have to be shelved for the time being. While calling the event a triumph for Good might be a stretch it would, at the least, be a defeat for Evil and it would cause a real improvement in the lives of many suffering inhabitants.
Ina word: Congratulations! Cosmopolitan, huge, chaotic (even in a lawful plane), and bold where it should be! Definitely catches the oppresive atmosphere of the plane, but without feeling too much like "the stage for a high level party's next dungeon crawler." All the different races, organizatins and cultures from PS myth you used fit in with the setting. The Merkhant Bank-God?! This is an example of how a Planescape city outside Sigil should feel (and read) like! I'm always on with developing or detailing of more burgs and sites on different planes, as I think this is what the PS lacks.
Just with this article, I think you have turned Gehenna in to a plane 2 times more interesting than before, and created a ready to play module.
I hope you have more like this on the way!
Ps:"The festival is presided over by the local phiulhs"
What are phiulhs? google search results in Phillips & and this article alone.
Ah, a spelling error. Phiuhls are gaseous aberrations native to Gehenna's slopes, resembling lurid green and violet columns of steam with tormented faces. They're believed to be undead air elementals, or personifications of misery, pain, hunger, heat, and poison, or both. See the 3e Fiend Folio, page 135, or Planes of Conflict. I'll fix the typo.
Thanks for your comments and praise, Evil and Palomides!
I am absolutely stunned by the amount of effort you put into the city. It feels as though it's always been a part of the D&D mythos and I honestly cannot find enough words to suffice as a proper amount of praise your work deserves.
Great job and I'm sure Gary Gygax himself is smiling up there in the planes above.
So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself. - Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Just so that you don't get a completely swelled head, I do have one question
I'm not completely sure how you envision this city in relation to Sung Chiang's realm
Is this a neighboring/sister city?
Is it a "suburb" of the god's realm?
Is Sung Chiang's realm a pocket within this larger city?
I ask because I want to understand the relationship you see between the god and the vaporighus that are secretly running this city. If push came to shove between the two "rulers" which would back down? Or does the interests of the two rulers never overlap thus never causing conflict? (E.g. Sung Chang rules his realm absolutely and ignores the Void provided that his minions can pass through unhindered)
You might have answered this already in your lengthy text but given the amount of info, I can be forgiven for missing something
Some possible points of conflict (off the top of my head)
-Sung Chang (or his minions) steal from a powerful figure in the Void
-Forces in the Void try to take over some parts the god's theivery operations or try to use extortion (on the less powerful minions) to get a "cut" - it's dumb to take on a god but greed can make people do dumb things
-Forces in Void try to tax the sales in Sung Chang's black market
-If efforts were made to pull the Void back into the Outlands, would it have a "hole" of undeveloped space where Sung Chang's realm once sat? Would the Teardrop be pulled along? (The later seems unlikely) Would the god fight to keep the Void or would he be indifferent to its disappearance from Gehenna?
Thanks for your constructive comments!
The city of Void's Edge has had a very long history in my imagination, beginning as a submission to Mimir.net's Lower Planes of Conflict contest in 1999 or so (no winner was ever announced). A version of it has been hosted on this site for years, so I looked at it when the Gehenna rehabilitation thread went up, and realized how terrible it was. I mean, lame - lots of weird random arbitrary bits and very little usable detail. Reading through it I had all sorts of questions for my past self - what does a beholder have to do with the rest of the city's themes? Where would the PCs go to look for a book and what's its significance? What's up with that zoo full of random animals? Who owns it, what is it called, how much do you have to pay to look at it, and will they pay you for new beasts? Everything needed more background, more hooks, and more conflict. So for the last few weeks I've been working on revising it to something like my current standards.
One of the biggest changes I made was incorporating Sung Chiang's realm in it. Looking at the map in Planes of Conflict, I realized for the first time that the Teardrop Palace was most likely in the same place that I imagined Void's Edge being and, furthermore, it made sense that it would be there, since it's supposed to be a major center of illicit planar trade. I actually considered throwing the idea of Void's Edge out entirely, but I decided that some of the fundamental reasons for it - the nupperibo trade mentioned in the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix I, the trade in raw and processed minerals from upstream on the Styx, and other commerce that doesn't have anything to do with stolen goods - still justified building a mortal city around the divine realm, and I thought it actually made sense that mortals and fiends might cluster near Sung Chiang's palace, like medieval peasants building huts outside a walled city, to take advantage of the wealth and relative safety.
So to answer your question, the Teardrop Palace is completely independent of Void's Edge. Sung Chiang doesn't mind that people have built near the walls of his palace, and in fact one of the reasons he decided to put his realm there is because he likes urban environments. But he doesn't rule Void's Edge and Void's Edge doesn't rule him. He has no desire to be the ruler of the town; he has enough on his plate being the god of thieves, an active thief himself, and a minister in the Celestial Bureaucracy. According to the 1st edition Manual of the Planes he spends much of his time in the Nine Hells, stealing from one lord and hiding out in the realm of another. According to On Hallowed Ground he steals pieces of other gods' realms and makes his realm bigger with the extra space (it's much, much, much bigger outside than it is inside). Anyway, he doesn't need to be king of a rabble of mortals; he's busy doing god things on the level of gods. The existence of a city around him gives him the opportunity to use the portals there instead of ones in his own realm (plausible deniability), and gives his proxies and their minions marks to steal from, but they know better to mess with a god in his own domain, and he doesn't care enough to mess with them much. They're too far beneath him.
The bit about the vaporighus secretly running the city is a legacy of the older draft, and isn't really very well explained in this version. Originally they ruled using the city's thieves' guild as proxies, but I killed off the thieves' guild when I put the Teardrop Palace in. So how, exactly, do a group of senile vaporighus living deep underground influence the surface of the city at all? I have no idea, and I think I should go back and either revise that bit or cut it out. [EDIT: I just did, moving the section on vaporighus from the rulers section to the inhabitants section, and expanding it slightly. I also expanded the paragraph on tso.] It seems to me that the city is primarily ruled by the various powerful factions in it (the noble families, the Fated, the Planar Trade Consortium, the Merkhants, the Flayed Lord, and the mayor). I don't mean to say that Sung Chiang's proxies have a monopoly on criminal activity in the city, but I think they're the only truly organized criminal force.
It confused me for a moment when you called the city the Void, since I thought you meant the actual void beyond the furnaces of Gehenna, which might be an interesting source of conflict. Then I realized you meant the city itself (which I usually abbreviate as the Edge, since it's not actually in the void). Anyway, i think generally speaking there isn't anything in Void's Edge worth stealing for a god - he's after things like pieces of divine realms or major artifacts. His minions (led by his two gehreleth proxies) are said to steal constantly to one-up each other and impress their master, and they might well try to steal from powerful figures in the city (another reason, I think, why it makes sense for a city to be built around the palace; otherwise there's little for Sung Chiang's proxies to steal other than desolate volcanic waste). I think Sung Chiang will do nothing to help his servants if they get caught; I don't think he's a deity with much patience for failures. If a linqua gets arrested at a marketplace, it won't be able to count on its master to save it. Sung Chiang's greater proxies rarely leave the realm, so they're probably safe; the god's palace is a sovereign state with diplomatic immunity, so any minion of the deity who makes it back there has gotten off scott free (though that might change once it leaves again). There's nothing anyone in the city can do to defeat an intermediate deity in his own home, so there's no way they can force Sung Chiang to extradite criminals. A truly bold thief might break into Sung Chiang's palace to steal something back, though that'd definitely be a hazardous mission.
Could happen! Like I said, I don't really see the god running any thievery operations in the city personally. He works on a bigger scale. So someone like that is really taking on his proxies, with their somewhat more limited resources. If they win, they've won fair and square, and I don't see Sung Chiang exercising his divine mojo and throwing his weight around for the sake of minions that can't handle their jobs. So I think some mortal or fiendish thieves might well successfully build a rival criminal guild in the city (and some of the barghest and baatezu-led "gangs" might approach this).
They could effectively do this through import/export tariffs on cargo leaving or entering the city, and I don't see a problem with it. They wouldn't dare send a tax collector to Sung Chiang's front door to demand taxes from the god or his minions themselves, but they could effectively get a slice from mortal and fiendish thieves who want to come to the city to use the market. Plus there's money that comes in through restaurants, inns, shops, and other amenities that travelers need; I don't see Sung Chiang having spare rooms for casual traders in his palace. For honored guests and diplomats, sure, but most bashers who use the Teardrop Palace's marketplaces will have to find some place to stay outside his walls. Which is another reason I think building a city around the realm makes sense.
One way of avoiding taxes is to use the portals within the Teardrop Palace itself. There's definitely one leading to the Palace of Judgment in the Outlands, and one to the Jade Palace in Mechanus, and at least a temporary one-way portal leading to Sigil (since linquas occasionally escape through that one). Using the Celestial Bureaucracy's portals is a nightmare of red tape, and they might conceivably charge their own fees one way or another, but it can be done. Escaping to Sigil might be nice if you don't intend on staying in the Teardrop Palace long, though of course Sigil has its own tax-takers.
I did discuss this somewhat in the article above. I suggested that Sung Chiang might decide to voluntarily move his realm to follow the city, or he might stay behind and let a new city be built around him. He wouldn't be pulled along involuntarily, and I don't think he'd fight to keep the city around him against the will of its inhabitants. He's a thief, not a tyrant - and the distinction is actually very important to him, because he was granted his divinity because he pointed out to the judge at the Palace of Judgment that though he'd been a bad man in life, his badness didn't approach that of the corrupt official who ruled his homeland.
Thanks, that clears up quite a bit. I was thinking along similar lines but equating the god's domain as an island of "diplomatic immunity" gave me a crystal clear image.
I like the bit that his realm (or "embassy" as it were) opens up TARDIS-like and has stolen chunks of land (I like the idea of a civilized god having a stolen garden from Elysium or wherever, where he can relax and feel superior to the ugliness of Gehenna - perrhaps the mortals took this as an inspiration for their zoos; "See we're cultured too")
If I might make a few humble suggestions:
-I would make some rules for the portals in Sung Chang's domain.
1) They are off limits to anyone except his minions and his exalted guests
2) If someone were to give the god an excessive payment, the donor might become an exalted guest. This price would be so high that only in the most extreme cases would a person be tempted to spend this amount of money. E.g a mortal thief who was trying to dodge a league of assassins waiting in the Edge might not have any other option
3) They are all one-way; all leaving the plane. This makes it easy for his minions to get near the site of their robbery but doesn't help them return. (I really enjoyed the idea that the thieves would have to prove their worth by being able to navigate the various dangers after the theft and return safely)
4) To make the above rules have more power (and perhaps to prevent forces of justice from showing up), maybe teleportation and similar spells don't function normally here (similar to a domain in Ravenloft). A vistor can either walk in or out from the Edge (adding another layer of meaning to the city's name) or he might be honored with the use of an exit portal. There should be no other ways in or out.
-The city of the Edge places a tax on all goods being transported into the city from the market of the Teardrop Palace. Since most people will have to leave by passing through the Edge, this would generate a lot of income for the city (or for groups that help one smuggle goods - effectively paying a smaller "tax" for the goods).
The god wouldn't care what the mortals are up to since it wouldn't affect his realm or market directly
-I would suggest that different factions control different sectors of the city. Ultimately, they exist like parasites off of the money generated by the god's realm. They don't intrude on the god or his activities (except for robbing linquas that aren't clever enough to sneak through). But all the factions fight each other in a subtle economic (and sometimes overt physical) war to get larger portions of the parasitic wealth available. Imagine various mob families fighting each other for a bigger piece of the action. It's not all-out war but it's still viscious
P.S. Sorry about using the wrong name for the city; should have caught that
I wouldn't necessarily make Sung Chiang's portals off limits to ordinary characters. The portal from the Palace of Judgment in the Outlands, at least, is mentioned in the Planescape boxed set as being one of the main reasons for living characters to go to the Palace of Judgment in the first place - because of all the portals to the realms of the other Chinese gods. It's not super easy to use or abuse, so I have no problem with the idea that player characters could take advantage of it, though they might find it easier to go through Torch or the River Styx. I would make the connections to the Palace of Judgment and the Jade Palace (where Sung Chiang has to make a personal appearance once a year) two-way and permanent. Any portals to Sigil I'd probably make temporary, or appearing at odd intervals.
It may be, though, that it's easier to get there from the Palace of Judgment to the Teardrop Palace than it is to get to the Palace of Judgment from there, and it may indeed be necessary to bribe a proxy at some point.
I'd make teleportation work as normal within the main city, but it does make sense for a god who builds 50-foot high walls to ban teleporters from crossing into and out of his realm freely. That means there's some risk of teleporters evading taxes, but that's true in almost every city other than Sigil and in the Underdark. I don't see a reason why this particular city, in all the multiverse, should be exempt from that danger. Most people won't be able to teleport large amounts of goods with them, anyway.
Not everyone in the city is a parasite on the Teardrop Palace, since there are other sources of income (tourism, trade between Gehenna and the Outlands, trade between Gehenna and Baator, mercenaries, drugs, magic and secrets, whatever else). But I like the idea of rival gangs dividing the city into territories.
So it took me until now to grab long enough from moving internationally to sit down and read this, and I'm really impressed. It's thoroughly worked out and hangs together very well. Certainly a site I'll remember if our game ever wanders to Gehenna. We've done one social arc (bunch of freed slaves founding a city) as a PBeM during some down time, and the city-redemption campaign would definitely be right up our alley.
Amazing city. I could feel it coming to life as I read the words.
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