Yeah, I think it is a good attempt, but the World of Darkness and Planescape aren't compatible. Some cosmologies are just too different to mix without severely distorting one or the other.
World of Paradox
Years ago, while searching through the records of the Fraternity of Order, I have repeatedly come upon brief entries describing Prime Material worlds that are exceedingly difficult to access due to the localized opposition to all things supernatural. Intrigued, I pursued these rumors until I managed to dig up a source of information that was still available - a Prime Material vampire now dwelling in Undersigil. After several months of searching, my associates and I managed to locate the creature, a hideous, malformed beast calling itself Nosferatu. I’d rather not detail the exchange of information and goods that took place there. Suffice to say, the creature eventually provided information about its native world on the Prime, and about a possible pathway that would lead me there. It also gave me a few survival tips, but I almost dismissed them outright, thinking it unnecessary to concern myself overmuch with measures of personal security – it’s not like I was plunging into the depths of the Abyss again; it was just a backwater Prime world. Such a well-lanned planewalker, and still I make these clueless oversights. It's difficult to understand, really.
The vampire’s chant had confirmed that it would be nigh impossible to reach his mysterious Prime world directly by portal or plane shift spell, so we took the long way round. My two fellow explorers and I traveled to the Deep Ethereal via portal in the City of Glass, from which we made our way to a specific Border Ethereal coexistent with our destination. (The exact pathway through the Ethereal plane is provided in Appendix II, coded using the standard Fraternity #46-B pattern.) In this particular area we experienced unusually violent conditions, including dark ether storms and flocks of malevolent ghosts. But, forewarned by the Nosferatu vampire, we used the obscure devices purchased previously from the Etherfarer Society, and traversed this barrier (the so-called “Gauntlet”, we would later learn) with relative ease. When we turned Material, we were finally there.
How shall I explain what we felt then? One of my companions was an outsider, a movanic deva wizard, and claimed that her very essence began to “... fade, waste away somehow...” the moment we entered the plane. The rest of us felt something vaguely similar, but being neither spellslingers nor exemplars, we couldn’t have experienced anything nearly as stifling as Mirri did. She voiced her opinion that we should return immediately, as the ether curtain wouldn’t last long in this environment (and that turned out to be true), but Verlan and myself weren’t prepared to leave so soon. Indeed, the explorations we undertook lasted over two years, and I cannot blame Mirri for leaving after only a few months; she was obviously in great peril and couldn’t withstand the oppressive “anti-belief” trait of the plane. Besides, her celestial appearance made it difficult for us to go unnoticed and blend in with the crowd - she was unable to use magic to hide her wings and radiant skin.
Over the course of our long investigation, Verlan and I learned much of this unusual Prime world and its denizens. We had to learn the language manually, as spells couldn’t aid us, and were forced to hide our planar origins from both the mundane and supernatural natives – exposing ourselves to the former automatically increased the pressure of the forces of “unbelief” (what we would learn to call Paradox), and confiding in the latter led to attempts of banishment, of capture for experimentation purposes, or even of outright destruction.
The world is densely populated and entirely human-dominated. The only non-human sentients we encountered were related to humans - human-born undead, half-human shapechangers, and fey beings that were somehow born as humans, but grew into their true nature later. Amazingly, all three types of supernatural beings have adapted, with some degree of success, to living in a world that denies their very nature – a world of Paradox.
The humans are spread all over the planet (see charts in Appendix III), and are even looking beyond, exploring the limits of their unusually spacious crystal sphere. They live in immense cities of steel and flowing stone, and travel around the world quickly using their technological wonders. There are many sub-types and sub-races of humankind, but most are able to speak the local Common tongue. (I have not encountered a single individual that understood Planar Trade, which is not too surprising, all things considered.) The humans are nominally ruled by some sort of a planetary council, with representatives from all large burgs and states present. This body is, as we later found out, secretly controlled by a smaller sect known as the Order of Reason, a group of technologists that actively work on suppressing the supernatural elements, since these are perceived as a threat to the “stability” of the plane, whatever that means. They persecute those few humans who still wield arcane powers, and seem to have a firm grip on things. The human masses are entirely oblivious to the existence of magic, but at the same time take all their extraordinary technology achievements entirely for granted!
I am not a tinker gnome myself, but I doubt even these technologically-inclined small-folk could find the words to properly describe the mechanical wonders of the world of Paradox. The towers of glass and steel in which the better part of the human population lives are awe-inspiring structures of strange, cold beauty. The machines built by these clueless humans are able to move at speeds greater than anything non-magical I have ever seen, alter the environment at an immense scale, and perform all sorts of complex tasks that go beyond my comprehension. However, what impressed me the most is the mass-communication; these primes are able – without any magic whatsoever – to transfer detailed audio-visual information elsewhere in a blink of an eye, and do so constantly, enveloping their world in a constant shroud of transferred voices and pictures, a veritable demiplane of information! “So what,” some may say, “do we not have all this on the Planes, and more?” Ah, but think of the advantages of performing all these feats through mundane means! Think how far-spread and cheap all these wonders would be if anyone could create and command them, and not only the rare few spell-slingers that go beyond chucking fireballs at each other... speaking of which...
My tiefling associate Verlan, being a devoted member of the Doomguard, was more interested in the military applications of the lore of this strange world. He was delighted to find that the weapons of destruction built here not only match those produced magically on the Planes, but surpass them in a number of ways. For example, most of us here are aware of the “gnomish gunne”, or the musket. While of substantial offensive power, it is unreliable, slow, hard to manufacture, and harder to maintain, and thus, not found in common use. On the world of Paradox, guns are made with several hundred times the firepower of a musket, quite reliable, and so easy to produce that they are issued to every base soldier unit. A frightening thought? Then what is one to think when told about mechanical vehicles more heavily armored than a ghargatula that spit gouts of flame, of flying metallic vessels dropping explosive charges that would make a fireball seem laughable, or finally, missiles the size of buildings that can guide themselves thousands of miles and then detonate, scorching everything in a miles-wide radius and leaving the land poisoned and foul for generations? All these present on a single, relatively young Prime world, while the endless tanar’ri had managed to produce only a couple of Ships of Chaos over the countless millennia (nothing but the Ships can match to the aforementioned nukular missiles, says Verlan.)
One must ask himself what are all these weapons doing on a single, relatively young Prime world, and is there a snowballs chance in Baator that this insane armory of a world could survive past the “relatively young” stage.
There is magic left in the world of Paradox, but it is a tortured, dying thing. Unlike most other primes and planars, men of this world cannot simply spend a few years in training, then copy some spells from a book, and become mages. No, before they even begin to sling spells, they must achieve a degree of arcane enlightenment that many archmages never do. They must adopt one of several existing systems of belief and use it as a tool to shape and mold the very substance of their reality. These exceedingly difficult methods are also very hazardous – the current reality of this plane abhors change, tries to remain static, and thus the forces of Paradox may rebound on these native mages with disastrous results. They maintain their secret arts, and try to avoid attracting the attention of the Order of Reason. How well these methods work on the Planes is unclear, but my guess is: not too well.
There are practitioners of supernatural arts other than the mortal mages. The vampires, for one, have a complex established society, with many clans and bloodlines organized into two large sects. One supports maintaining status quo, disguising themselves as living humans, whom they secretly manipulate. The other sect strives to end this “masquerade”, discard all the traditions, and openly rule the living cattle. Certain vampiric clans possess some inborn magical powers, much less in complexity and magnitude than the powers the mages wield, but also not as hindered by the ever-present Paradox. The vampire that had originally provided me with the details on how to reach this Prime was apparently a native, so evidently at least some of these beings had previously penetrated planar boundaries.
Another group of supernatural beings are the shapeshifters, primarily werewolves. Their fairly primitive, shamanic tribes see themselves as guardians of nature, the last warriors of the wild. They recognize the presence of Paradox in the world as something unnatural, and despise it. They personify all beings, places, and occurrences that they view as unnatural as a singular being, a mythical “Wyrm”. The werewolves live in constant preparation for the final conflict with this Wyrm, when their plane will either be restored to its former natural state, free of the Paradox, or be undone. Thankfully, we were able to leave before this apocalypse took place.
Other supernaturals include the changelings and the wraiths. Changelings are the offspring of both Seelie and Unseelie fey of Arborea, either left behind when their ancestors returned home, or outcasts from the Courts from a later period – the information is murky here. They possess magical powers of the type known to us planars; they prefer enchantments and illusions, as most of their kin do. We have not been able to establish contact with the wraiths, the assemblies of ghosts from the so-called Gauntlet (a local area of the Border Ethereal, heavily shadow-contaminated), and have gathered very little information from their mortal contacts, a sect of mortal mages calling themselves the Dreamspeakers.
Even the aforementioned supernatural beings have very little knowledge about the general order of the planes, and their role in it. Some of the mages are aware that there are other “realms” beyond their own, but are not too willing to brave the contaminated Border Ethereal to explore, having apparently lost some high-ups in similar attempts. Not surprisingly, some were very interested in what we had to say about the way the multiverse works, but beings explorers, not missionaries or sages, we spent little time educating these unfortunate primes.
At this point I think it would be prudent to attempt to explain the sad state of this Prime Material world regarding belief and magic. From my research, I have been able to draw the following conclusions:
1) At some earlier point, this one was very much like any other Prime Material world, with mortal beings that projected their thoughts, hopes, fears, and dreams through the Astral Plane and beyond, ultimately doing their part in the creation of the Outer Planes, Powers, and exemplars. As proof, I submit legends and folk tales still present today mentioning beings that evidently exist on the Planes – the angels, demons, devils, and deities. (Some are called by their proper name, such as Odin, Asmodeus, or Ishtar, but some names are simplified or altered.) See Appendix IV, subsection 2.
2) At some point, something happened. This is to say, the primes of this world began turning to insular unbelievers, relying on their “logic” and “rational thought”, and excluding certain aspects of existence as “fictional” and “unrealistic”. This has not only severely limited their access to the Planes, but also caused the native supernatural beings to emigrate while they still could, the very essence of their being threatened by these new tendencies of (un-)belief. Presumably those that remained behind were eventually “thought out of existence” by the coagulating reality. Evidently, this new state of being was not healthy for the world.
3) The local reality is now mostly static. It does not succumb to change easily, and tries to negate any action or object that defies the prescribed “scientific laws”, codified by the Order of Reason. (The role that this sect had played in these changes is unclear, but I assume they are less of a cause than effect.) All who attempt to force reality to change expose themselves to blind and cruel forces, dubbed “Paradox” by the natives, that attempt to negate their very being; even our deva friend Mirri could have fallen to this, had she not the sense to leave. The world is still holding on, but some natives claim that each next generation is weaker in spirit and body, less creative, less fundamentally alive. Whether this world can survive for much longer without the supernatural element or not, it remains to be seen. Personally, I am not optimistic, as this “Paradox” reminds me too much of a cancerous disease. Its progress, its effects, the way how it turns the “cells” of the world against each other… I just hope it’s not contagious, for my sake and the sake of the Planes. And I’m only half-joking here.
Nevertheless, there were some positive aspects of the slow death of magic on this world. Nowhere else in the known planes has the level of technology development been advanced so far without the aid of magic… and it may very well be that this progress took place precisely because of the lack of magic. The inventive, quick-thinking, and adaptive natives had to find alternative ways to accomplish things. There was no magic healing available, so they invented miraculous mundane cures; there were no magic portals, so they invented metallic flyers that propel themselves by burning fuel (and I am not talking about a gnomish steam engine, for I have seen how these work before); there were no dragons to burn entire armies, so they invented explosives that can level cities.
This brings us to the point that some of you have been expecting me to make for a while now: how can the planar community benefit from exploring this world… besides the benefit of knowledge itself, obvious to my fellow Guvners, no doubt. Well, for one, we could try to adapt some of their mechanical contraptions to use on the planes. I say adapt because most of the items we brought over simply do not function… it is my assumption that as our magic didn’t function there, the very principles that these technological wonders are based on do not function on the Planes.
Regardless, we cannot disregard the possibility that something could possibly be adapted for planar use. And an effort in that direction, I am less than pleased to tell you, is already being made. The fiends, I don’t know which but my money is on the ‘loths, are already aware of this Prime world and are dipping their talons in the honey. Certainly, they would mostly be interested in the terrible tools of death and destruction that we have seen, but they cannot march in and take over the production, since their outsider nature is also under pressure from Paradox. They use agents, however… during my stay, I had been taken prisoner by one of these Nephandi, as I have heard them called, and questioned under torture, but my valiant friend Varlan and his werewolf allies managed to rescue me in time. What the fiends will come up with from this venture is anyone’s guess, but the less they pull over, the better I’ll sleep at night.
On a semi-related note, word has come to me from Verlan’s Doomguard contacts of a baatezu attempt to create a model of a non-magical world for mortals somewhere within an isolated region of either Baator or Acheron, and accelerate the technological progress of their test-subjects to see what the poor sods can come up with regarding mechanical gizmos of war. As the chant has it, the tanar’ri had sabotaged this camp before any results could reach the general public…
Eventually my fellow explorer and I had to break camp and leave this strange Prime material world. The exit windows that our werewolf friends were monitoring for us were slowly dying out, and I was getting paranoid about it, thinking that someone would rather have us trapped on the Prime than let us publish our findings. We traveled back the way we came, through the Ethereal Plane, but the trek was much more difficult than before, and this time we had none of the useful little trinkets of the Etherfarers (on which I am not at liberty to divulge further information here) to see us through. Again, were it not for the prowess of my tiefling associate, I would have probably fallen prey to the unusual ghosts that dwell in this Gauntlet.
All in all, it was a most inspiring expedition, and I am prepared to act either as primary project coordinator or expert advisor on the next … when the Fraternity mounts …
(We were not able to salvage the last few paragraphs of the document, as it was far too damaged. Squire Willett’s recordings and samples were systematically destroyed beyond repair, and his backup mimir is missing. We officially recommend a thorough re-examination of squire Willett’s remains, since this document sheds new light on the motives behind his “flaying”, more precisely, the possibility of alternate perpetrators of the said act.)– Intrnl. Cntrl., Fr. of Ord., sec. code beta, 3rd of Rit., FW 4th).