Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

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Wicke
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Planar Renovation Project: Acheron

Link to the original thread: PRP: Acheron

Just a small alteration that I've made in my own person PS canon: The Conservation of Souls thing (or whatever it's called), that supposedly limits the number of petitioners on the plane? It's something that only affects the Goblinoid and Orcish pantheon, and that other races aren't necessarily bound by it. I figure those two pantheons were tricked or strong-armed into making such an agreement, and that while it may be legally binding, there's nothing that *actually* stops more petitioners from existing. It's only because of a blind adherence to the agreement that keeps races in check, something that feels very Acheronian to me.

I know intellectually that the limits aren't defined in any way. Changing that one thing though leaves the plane wide open for a greater variety of different war-like races and cultures, rather than the stated notion that Acheron is mostly deserted. I've never liked the notion of Acheron being an infinite plane with a finite number of petitioners.

In the end, I'm starting a new thread because why not?

Palomides
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Why not start a new thread?

Why not start a new thread? Because the last one was perfect! (In no way, bias since I started that one)
.
But seriously, while we never got a completely consolidated renovation; I think you will need to offer your take (or at least a direction in which you are looking) to get this ball rolling again.

Wicke
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Hehe...Mostly I wanted to

Hehe...Mostly I wanted to capture my one thought. It's been bouncing around in my head for a while now, bothering me. I don't much care for the notion of the entire plane being locked into an almost exclusive Orc vs. Goblinoid war, as that's kinda one-dimensional and grows old as the only reason for the plane to exist.

Maybe instead turn it into a Blood War in miniature, acting as a backdrop for the rest of the plane (or at least the first layer), where each side tries to get the upper hand.

And with the the notion of the Conservation of Souls as a contract between the two pantheons (rather than an absolute law of the plane) could mean both are too proud to give up on the agreement because they *know* that they can beat the other side according to the terms of said contract. They're locked into a pointless, ceaseless war, wasting the souls of their followers who will never become petitioners because of their foolish pride. That sort of arrangement just screams Acheron to me.

I'll see if I can't put forth more thoughts on the plane itself.

Quickleaf
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Acheron vs. mirrored planes

Looking at the plane's mirror/corresponding planes is always a good start to clarify what the plane is about & what sorts of conflicts suit it best. For Acheron...

Arcadia: Whereas Acheron is about bloody war, Arcadia is about enforced peace. When swords are drawn in Arcadia it is with a purpose - usually defending the peace - not the petty pointless causes of Acheron. In Acheron, peace can't ever be entertained...events conspire to turn negotiations into violence, grudges burn bright in the mind, NPCs recount the deaths of followers (who they didn't really care about as individuals) to galvanize their armies to fight harder. If an Acheronian general/army were to regain their cause (and it wasn't wholly evil) they might ascend to Arcadia.

Ysgard: Whereas Acheron is about war as conformity, Ysgard is about battle for individual glory. A Ysgardian boasting of killing a giant to Acheronian troops would likely be considered a dangerous renegade likely to get his companions fighting alongside him killed. The idea of pursuing a "blood debt", receiving battle accolades, or choosing which side one fights for would be alien concepts on Acheron, as elusive as Heaven is to us in real life. If a group of warriors on Ysgard became locked in a blood feud lasting so long they couldn't remember the reasons, they might risk slipping into Acheron.

Pandemonium: Whereas Acheron is about the ultimate societal madness - warfare - Pandemonium is about individual madness and unresolvable internal conflict. Both planes have paranoia and demonization of the "Other" as a major theme. An Acheronian general confronted with the pointlessness of his cause, and yet compelled to fight for survival, might risk slipping into madness only to awaken in Pandemonium, his troops left to fend for themselves.

Palomides
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I agree with your statements

I agree with your statements Quickleaf as I incorporated all three facets that you found in your parallels.

On the original thread, the biggest stumbling block (I believe) was incorporating all the layers into the theme of endless mindless battle.
The canon layers are:
*Avalas - an endless battlefield; no one had problems with this
*Thuldanin - universal junkyard [of battle]. The canon material seems like this is a more general junkyard; the prior thread seemed OK tying in the idea of wasted potential and pointless destruction into this junkyard
*Tintibulus - a universe of basalt hexagons where arcane power is enhanced. Numerous ideas were floated for this, but I'm not sure there was a collective agreement on the "point" of this layer or how it tied into the bigger themes of the plane
*Ocanthus - flying razor-storms and bladelings. I think this one suffered because (to the best of my knowledge) there isn't a particular hook or history to the bladelings. Yes, they are xenophobic and angry; but to me, that isn't enough from which to create an imaginary society or particularly memorable villains or NPCs. Giving the bladelings an interesting story that ties in to the themes of the plane would go a long way to make this plane more intriguing

Palomides
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Random Thoughts

Just a few random thoughts that I don't know if I would use but which might generate some discussion:

-The razor-storms of Ocanthus are said to be slivers of black ice. Regardless of their composition, did these shards come from the shattering of someone/something of immense power?

-In the prior thread, "Bootchie!" suggested that while Carceri is the prison built by the current gods to house the prior gods/primordial titans; perhaps the cubes of Acheron are actually the prisons holding the Lords of Chaos who lost in the battle vs. Law when the later wanted to construct a relatively stable multiverse. Bootchie! suggests that it is the rage of these trapped beings that fuels to endless desire of warfare

-Is the third layer the hidden home of the rakshasa? If we follow the prior thread, perhaps the hexagon pieces are shattered pieces that need to be re-assembled to create a whole at which point the rakshasa can free Ravana or the Lords of Dust that are trapped within? (Sort of a giant jigsaw puzzle that has to be assembled before the being(s) trapped within have any chance of escaping)

Quickleaf
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3rd layer: Tintibulus

An idea for Tintibulus...the layer of war magic taken to the extreme.

In mortal worlds there are usually limits to how far a mage will go to achieve victory in wartime. The use of spells like stinking cloud, meteor swarm, and animate dead (among others) are rarely allowed by sovereigns concerned with conducting an "honorable" war. Some magic is just too heinous, its cost too great, its destruction too indiscriminate. Mages and sovereigns whose souls end up on Tintibulus ignored these imposed wartime morals and codes of honor, going to any lengths to achieve victory for their side. Sacrificing soldiers in a conflagration to deal a critical blow to the enemy, animating the desecrated corpses of fallen soldiers, using phantasmal killers to torture enemy scouts...no extreme is too great to achieve victory. For the end justifies the means.

Where do the rank-and-file petitioners on Tintibulus come from? Many are the souls of those who shed normal morality to achieve victory - torturers, executioners of prisoners of war, treacherous captains. Fighting pitched battles for the Mage-lords of the layer (each occupying a different shaped floating polyhedron), they eventually are destroyed by magic, a thin dust all that remains of them, a dust which coats much of the layer.

Jem
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A legend for Acheron

One thing I don't recall from the canon materials is something which some might consider to not fit with the plane of endless pointless struggle if it were true -- but then, it doesn't necessarily have to be, or the myth can grow up around something only half true.

Namely, as one motivation for all the maneuvering and fighting, maybe there ought to be a legend of someone, some racial god or awesome general, who actually won. Someone who eliminated their hated foe, who achieved the final victory, whose conquest was so complete that his triumphant host transcended Acheron and war itself and became pure.

You could have the following pieces:

(a) the Victorious General himself -- a master of strategy, tactics, intelligence, deception, leadership, commissariat, and discipline, whose control over his army and territory was constantly reaching for perfection, and one day achieved it. Commanding armies of the living on the Prime, and petitioners in the afterlife, he was worshiped by his underlings until, with the death of the final foe, he ascended to godhead.

(b) His legendary divine realm -- the territory the Victorious General conquered, cubes and lower layers that came together in one perfect unit of absolute authority, one network of military might. It exists now behind perfect defenses, supposedly only accessible if he wants you to find it. Theories generally run that it is on the border between Acheron and Mechanus, or between Acheron and the Outlands. It's not Heaven, but it's "better than here" -- soldiers in Acheron know better than to expect Heaven, but maybe "better than here" is something they can fight for.

(c) The ancient battlefields -- where do you look for weapons and histories that point the way to flawless victory? In the tracks of the Victorious God. Rumors constantly fly that a ruin of one of his old redoubts has been found, or that one of his weapons' discarded shells can be seized to be analyzed by magical weaponsmiths, or monuments or tomes that record how he fought this or that battle. There are a few specific sites (dungeon complexes, strange ruins), statues (written obelisks, carved monstrosities), cryptic books, and damaged relics that have become fairly widely believed to be totems of the Victorious General, fought over brutally by the armies seeking any edge.

(d) The defeated foe -- a race now nearly gone from the Multiversal memory, their gods floating on the Astral, their nations in ruins, trampled under the feet of younger races. Their death throes might have empowered battlefields where necromancy can raise entire armies from defeat to fight for those with knowledge; the desperation of their last days might have created devastating weapons at enormous sacrifice, weapons they were cut off from using, perhaps cast adrift in the hopes that someone would avenge them.

(e) His people -- and who are they? Some say they were the creators of the hassitoria, but others point out that they might be any race today. For, the legend goes, after his victory, the Victorious General was spurned for his tactics, his followers exiled for their viciousness. This was their thanks for sacrificing their hearts and souls to defeat the foe: banishment and censure. They went to join their General in his realm. He needs no believers from the outside; his greatest, immortal, living soldiers, perfectly disciplined, maintain his Paradise with their belief. They need no further proof: they have victory.

Wicke
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As a suggestion: Maybe the

As a suggestion: Maybe the endless pursuit of battle on the plane is due to the fact that those who don't pursue it, end up shifting over to the second layer and risking being turned to stone/black iron. So while a group may pause and rest, there's always that drive to find the next battle or risk being lost altogether.

Or maybe that which drives soldiers forward to battle on Acheron isn't hatred, but fear. Not fear of the enemy, but of being forgotten.

It could be that the deeper layers of Acheron represent an ever increasing sense of loss of memory. Ultimately, no individual warrior is important or even remembered on the first layer for very long once they die. On the second layer, even the instruments of war end up being lost and forgotten. On the third layer, I could see a handful of scattered Ozymandius-styled monuments, where even the memories of great and terrible civilzations fade into nothingness. And on the fourth layer the only thing that remains is the seething hatred/anger/fear that drove things forward, manifested as the shards and slivers of black ice.

Jem
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That would fit. Where

That would fit. Where Arcadia cares about the individual but favors the group, and Mechanus reduces the individual to a cog in the machine (and the machine is a cog in a bigger machine), Acheron wears the individual down so that only the group remains -- and a group without individuals is a shapeless, reasonless mass. Also gives a reason for the Styx to be at the bottom of the plane. There's where all the memories went.

Wicke
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It also contrasts well with

It also contrasts well with Ysgard. Where the Ysgardian focus is on personal glory and love fighting for the sake of fighting and don't care one whit about dying, Acheron's soldiers fight to maintain themselves from slipping away into nothingness and will do anything to ensure they avoid that fate.

It could be that many petitioners don't even want to fight, but know that if they stop, they risk being lost to oblivion. In fact, that makes for a particularly odd image: A decked out soldier, wailing apologies and begging forgiveness while engaged in battle.

Wicke
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Ooh! The Victorious General.

Ooh! The Victorious General...I could see a monument to him standing on Ocanthus, stuck full of shards of black ice and devoid of any features that could identify him as belonging to any one race or culture. Despite the fact that everybody strives to become as great, nobody really recalls anything about him. The race/culture he defeated is no more and nobody can quite remember what they looked like. Everybody knows his weapons were all distinctive and unique, but nobody's quite sure if he wielded a sword or an axe, or used a bow. His realm was a forest...no, a great desert empire...no a grand mountain hall. His headless, indistinct statue on Ocanthus is all that remains of his glory.

But he's remembered as the greatest!

Quickleaf
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Representative Species

Over here (http://www.planewalker.com/content/17-planar-species-reimagining) I posted about an Acheron species that appears akin to helmed horrors assembled from decaying corpses, broken arms and armor, torn banners, ravaged siege equipment, etc. I hinted they might be related to sword spirits and that they could be formed from those left to die on the battlefield.

This ties in nicely with the ideas above about petitioners on Acheron fighting to cling to individual memory, the losers ending up marooned on colder and cold cubes...or else left to die in battlefields picked over by this Acheron species that are sort of like vultures/anti-Valkyries, turning them into the Acheron species.

It could also tie in with the idea of the Victorious General's defeated foes, their names lost to the mists of history, their forms cursed into the first of the helmed horror-esque representative species.

Someone suggested this species be maugs. I suggested it be something more like revenants or Witcher 2 style draugs.