17 Planar Species: A Reimagining

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17 Planar Species: A Reimagining

Why are Egyptian-esque animal-headed celestials the natives of Elysium, the NG plane of blessed rest?
Are yugoloths the main planar race on both Gehenna and the Gray Waste?
How can I make Slaadi usable in my game? And why are crazy spawning frog monsters the embodiment of Chaos?

As Planescape fans, and especially as DMs, we are going to start asking ourselves these sorts of questions at some point, or else be asked them by our players. I'm embarking on a reimagining of the major planars races of the 17 Outer Planes, inspired by our work with jumpstarting the Planar Renovation Project again. The general rules are:

  1. The race must represent its plane and be compelling in its own right.
  2. There must be sub-species of the race.
  3. Where possible, the representative race should be an adaptation of an existing D&D race (preferably a planar one), but if absolutely necessary it can be something made new whole-cloth.
  4. It if ain't broken (e.g. Modrons, Baatezu, Tanar'ri) don't fix it.
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As a quick guide to my notation: bold equals a species in its normal place in the cosmology, while bold+ indicates I'm suggesting story tweaks to the species without changing its fundamental place. Italics indicates I'm using an existing species in an unusual cosmological placement because it *feels* like a better match there. And dark orange indicates I'm advocating an entirely new race, or possibly such a radical change that I haven't found a suitable monster from D&D lore to fit yet.
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Ok, let's dive right in! I'll start with 3 neutral planes, then the Lower Planes, then the Upper Planes.
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Outlands: Rilmani+
Someone posted that he imagined Rilmani as alchemically perfected humans who once had an empire across the Plane of Concordant Opposition, who lost their humanity in pursuit of perfection. I found this really compelling and giving the Rilmani a spark of much needed life and adventure hooks. It fits their sub-species names too, which are derived from the alchemical names of metals. The thread is over here: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?215538-How-would-you-re-envision-Guardinals-and-Rilmani-in-4e.
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Mechanus: Modrons
Check.
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Limbo: Slaadi+
As I've always interpreted them, they're more like horrific Lovecraftian demons, and I'm not sure they qualify as exemplars of Chaos, besides being crazy solipsists. Back in the old PRP: Limbo thread, someone mentioned a chaotic race called Proteans which infiltrated the individual after lives that souls in Limbo created for themselves, appearing as "characters" within the soul's "story", attempting to siphon energy from them and manipulate the inividual's imagined afterlife. First of all, that conception is just vastly more interesting! Secondly, maybe that idea could be applied to Slaadi? That they have their natural frog forms and then whatever form they take inside the afterlife-scape... After all, green, grey, and death slaad all have some form of polymorph or shapechange ability...
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Acheron: ?
I'm stumped.
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Baator: Baatezu
Check.
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Gehenna: Rakshasa
These guys are LÈ outsiders, they just about embody exploitation, and they already have several sub-species. A perfect fit! I imagine them as governing illusion coated cities full of vices untold to attract mortals who they then feed off of at their leisure. The are in conflict with the invading yugoloths and territorial barghest lords.
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Gray Waste: Yugoloths
Check.
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Carceri: Gehreleths+
I think they're a good fit to Carceri as outcasts/failed experiments of the baernoloths who serve as jailers who themselves hunger for freedom. However, the race rarely appeared in any capacity beyond a "planar troll" capacity in Planescape, and it needs some work to make it more compelling and usable.
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Abyss: Tanar'ri
Check.
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Pandemonium: Manians/Desmanians?
Though there is no major planar species for Pandemonium, looking thru the art of Planescape I see several images that seem to suggest some kind of fiend that was never realized in the monster books. This is one plane that may warrant the creation of a new race, perhaps called Manians or Desmanians? As an exhibit, I submit these pictures...

A. From the "Xaos" entry in PSCS Sigil and Beyond. Who are you?

B. Ever wonder who/what that Mercykiller was wearing over his face?

C. Check out the sketch in the bottom right panel...what kind of fiend is that?

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Arcadia: Formians
I think they're probably fine as is, though perhaps need a bit more thought about how to use them in adventures.

Mount Celestia: Archons
Great! The only change I would make is to rename the Hound Archon and give it a more human or angelic appearance rather than a dog-man.

Bytopia: "Janusean Angels"
This is the other plane that I think definitely warrants a new planar race. I'm detailing them over here: http://planewalker.com/content/planar-renovation-project-bytopia, but basically imagine two-faced multi-winged wise mediator-merchant-sages and you're on the right track. Not sure what they'd be called yet.

Elysium: Aasimon
I think either all non-deva Aasimon should be made natives of Elysium, and explicitly Neutral Good. This lets deva be the servants of all the Upper Planes and of varying alignment, and to more explicitly separate their mechanics from other Aasimon which I think has been the trend over the editions. The guardinals are just a poor fit thematically for Elysium. And Aasimon are like the ultimate symbol of Good, a fine counterpoint to the Yugoloths.

Beastlands: Guardinals (renamed)
Ok, now move the Guardinals over to the Beastlands, call them Warden Beasts or simply Animal Spirits, and now we're talking.

Arborea: Eladrin+
Check....I think. With one caveat: with the Plane of Faerie a thing in D&D now, Eladrin could use some differentiation from other fey-like creatures. Alternately you could go all Greek with them...

Ysgard: Valkyries
I know there's a lot of life in Ysgard - bariaur, giants, lillend, and other races, but none of them meet all the criteria I set out at the beginning. And there's been a gap in many depictions of Ysgard with a lack of the Valkyries (or they only were given a cursory treatment in Deities & Demigods). But how perfect are they conceptually? A plane all about celebrating personal glory and prowess in battle, home of the Norse gods. Then you have specters flying over battlefields on winged steeds, taking the spirits to their rightful reward, sleeping with them, championing them, going on adventures with them, deceiving them, lots of potential there. It would take a bit of doing to come up with a couple sub-species representing different power levels of Valkyrie. I like this idea, but I'm curious what you all think?

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No joke, I was looking

No joke, I was looking through the DM Guide from the PS campaign setting boxed set, and it has Yugoloths as being one of the native races of Acheron. I propose we go with some sort of Warforged-styled race. Specifically, a constructed race and something that was specifically built for war.

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Wicke: the maug seem to fit

Wicke: the maug seem to fit your wish for a constructed race in Acheron.

Early yugoloths probably fit well in Acheron due to them being more a mercenary force back then, instead of scheming puppeteers :)
Personally I'd keep the 'loths in Gehenna, and stick the rakshasas in Acheron. I think that's their natural habitat anyway and their racial deity resides there too. I'm not sure whether they're immigrants (from Baator?) or actual natives though.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the Aasimon and the Guardinals, but I think I like it. Maybe I just need some getting used to it, because now it seems to... crowded...

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Yugoloths get around!

Yugoloths get around!

I was thinking something similar for Acheron, but was worried it stepped on the toes of the modrons & inevitable / maruts of Mechanus. Maybe something akin to the draug (also called draugir) of Norse/Scandinavian myth, a returned spirit shackled to material fetters, a revenant essentially, The video game Witcher: Assassin of Kings gave them a "haunted armor" appearance that reminded me a bit of a scrapper version of helmed horrors.

EDIT: It would make sense to tie these guys to Sword Spirits.

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Ysgard: Einherjar

I got some good feedback from @Kinak over at ENWorld about making Einherjar the representative species of Ysgard. Well, species might be the wrong word, but with a little fleshing out of sub-types they make a mighty good fit. He recommended makin subtypes according to the type of valor they showed in life and/or their adventuring class. So here's what I came up with...

When not appearing out of the mists to aid beleaguered warriors, slaying giants, or defending Ysgard's borders, the Einherjar are either in their halls enjoying mead and the other perks of their afterlife in Valhalla. They are ancestor spirits to those of Norse descent or who see Ysgard as their spiritual home, and unlike normal petitioners, the exalted Einherjar may remember bits and pieces of their former lives such as clan loyalties or vague impressions of great deeds they accomplished.

Sub-types might include...

Berzerkers: barbarians who displayed valor in the face of overwhelming odds

Skalds: bards (of valor!) who displayed valor when no one else would

Völur: wizards (evoker/diviners) who displayed tragic valor in facing a terrible fate, traditionally female

Champions (Norse name?): fighters who displayed valor to lead

Aesirhamars: paladins (avengers) who displayed valor to follow the gods' commands without fully understanding even unto death

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Arborea: Eladrin

The eladrin first appeared in the Blood Ward card game, and were pretty explicitly fey creatures with names like Faerinaal and Morwel the Faerie Queen. In the 5e cosmology (as well as 4e and to a lesser extent 3e) the Plane of Faerie/Feywild has a stronger presence.

This begs the question: How do eladrin fit into the picture? Do we play up their fey attributes, put them in the Feywild, and put a different planar race as being representative of Arborea? Do we come up with a story conceit which explains why fey creatures belonging the the Feywild are inhabiting Arborea and have "gone native"? Do we seek a way to differentiate eladrin from elves and other fey, or make them distinctly Arborean? Do we scrap the eladrin altogether?

I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

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I really haven't followed

I really haven't followed what the Eladrin turned into for 4E, other than they kinda became a sorta elf or something. All I know is that the concept rubbed me the wrong way.

I like the notion of Eladrin as planar fey, though I'm not sure how the Feywild affects their status on Arborea. I liked the idea of the Eladrin behind behind-the-scenes movers on the Prime. I'll need to read up on how they played their game on the Planes though.

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Eladrin

I actually wasn't thinking about 4e at all. The adaptation I had in mind was from the original 2e eladrin to the 5e cosmology (in which Feywild & Arboreans both exist).

Planescape Monstrous Compendium 2 wrote:
The eladrins are the native race of Arborea, just as the baatezu are associated with Baator and the tanar’ri with the Abyss. They’re wild and free beings who exult in their own existence and live a life of song and celebration. The eladrins aid all people of good hearts against the forces of evil, but seek to do so with individual acts of kindness or heroism.

In Arborea, the eladrins move from place to place constantly, reveling in the natural beauty of the plane and seeking adventure. They’re defenders of goodness and freedom wherever it is threatened, and seek to counter the influences of tanar’ri and baatezu among mortals. To the eladrins, mortals should be free to choose their own destinies without fiendish interference; many of the more powerful eladrins constantly roam the planes and prime-material worlds, working against the baatezu and tanar’ri who seek to dominate these realms.

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Hmm...I suppose you're right

Hmm...I suppose you're right about only mentioned 5E. Is there any mention of them in any of the 5E literature so far? I'd want to see what's happened to them before deciding to rearrange things. As it stands, outside of maybe a clarity of focus for the race, I'm not sure it really needs to be addressed.

What I mean by focus is, the entry describes their actions on the Prime, but what role do they play on the Planes? How are they involved in planar politics? What actions do they take that tweak the more lawful celestials (as is often talked about, but never actually addressed)? I got my copy of the PSMC2 out and have been reading through their entries, but I'm not sure if I feel all that much more enlightened...

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Eladrin (continued)

Yeah, that is kind of what I was talking about. Well, two thing. Their lack of planar focus (what do they do on the planes?), yes. But also that they're pretty explicitly a Fey race dwelling on Arborea when they would better fit on the Feywild.... at least so it would seem. My question is about (a) giving them a planar identity in their own right, and (b) giving them an identity as fey distinct from fey of the Feywild (or explicitly separating them from fey).

As far as waiting for 5e's MM to come out...I'm pretty sure a lot of planar races won't be in there...I mean, Modron, Slaad, a plethora of Fiends, Aasimon/Angels yeah I can see them...but Archons, Guardinals, Formians, and Eladrin? Nah, those won't be in the MM. So, any Planescape DM wanting to use many of these races in 5e is going to be doing some converting and reimagining anyhow.

The one time I used an eladrin (Planescape version not 4e version) in my game was a Shiere Knight who was "defecting" from the Court of Stars to the Sensates and the Sensate PCs were tasked with making it as safe/peaceful as they could while also getting intelligen about a magic flower from the Shiere Knight. I played him very much as one of the classical Angelic fairies like the Lady of the Lake. Of course, back then we didn't play with any Plane of Faerie / Feywild and we were in our teens, so a lot of the stuff I'm talking about now went over our heads (or we just didn't care about).

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Oh, I was talking about

Oh, I was talking about whether the Eladrin were carried over as a PC race in 5E or if they're mentioned in a hypothetical planar section of the DMG (I've done no research into this). If they have been, then...I'm not sure how to approach things, other than to just ask: How should we develop [CG exemplar race name]? Probably better to just assume Eladrin and adjust after the fact, huh? Hehe...

Anyway, I think I'd rather have an exclusive CG planar race than one that lives on two different planes. I like the idea of the Eladrin as behind-the-scenes motivators. I could easily see a number of them infiltrating fiendish ranks under an assumed identity and disrupting plans from the inside, whether sabotaging supply lines or military orders, or secretly aiding any allies that they happen to encounter. I could also see them as willingly sacrificing themselves in order to ensure that somebody else is able accomplish their goals. In contrast, I see the Archons as being willing to sacrifice others in order to ensure the downfall of Evil (good souls will, of course, earn their just reward in the afterlife).

And, on consideration, I see the fey as being rather amoral, whereas I see the Eladrin as have a very definite sense of right and wrong, and they exalt the individual. This doesn't doesn't meant they can't be fey-like or flighty, just that where the fey are mostly unfathomable/incomprehensible to mere mortals, the Eladrin are borne out of the beliefs of the many Primes. They're guardian angels and imaginary friends who goad us to be our better selves, slipping away when their time is done.

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Eladrin: in 5th edition

To clarify: Eladrin are not yet mentioned anywhere in 5th edition. HOWEVER. The recent DM basic rules PDF from Wizards of the Coast reveals the Fey type:

Quote:
Fey are magical creatures closely tied to the forces of nature. They dwell in twilight grows and misty forests. In some worlds, they are closely tied to the Feywild, also called the Plane of Faerie. Some are also found in the Outer Planes, particularly the planes of Arborea and the Beastlands. Fey include dryads, pixies, and satyrs.

That seems to scream "Eladrin are fey, just on the planes", doesn't it?

So the idea that fey are largely immoral and that Eladrin are fey who made a choice aligning themselves with the individual good seems to work here. Maybe the Eladrin Court of Stars is where fey who make their Choice transcend to, or are at least given the chance to join. Conversely, the Unseelie Court of the Queen of Air & Darkness may welcome those fey who make their Choice to fight against humanity and embrace their evil caprice. Just as fiends and angels fight for mortal souls, these two faerie courts might fight for the allegiance of the fey.

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A race for Pandemonium

Started thinking about an exemplar race for Pandemonium. Thing is, the theme of the plane is madness, and how do you make a society based on the concept of madness? Came up with this sketch of an idea.

-----

Hiding in the shadows and winds of Pandemonium, the Daemonia (singular, daimonion) are whisperers, screamers, voices. They are snakelike beings, their bodies suited for lying beneath the winds of the plane, coiling in its nooks, and slithering through its winding ways. They range in size from trivial asps that lurk in the cracks of walls, to colossal anacondas that fill tunnels. They weakest of the race share minor magical powers such as mage hand, daze, and message at will. They are poisonous, not only in bite but in speech, for all of them can speak with mortals, and their words are always intelligible, though what they have to say is rarely comprehensible.

All daemonia have -4 to resist compulsions, which frequently interests wizards seeking compliant fiendish servants. The summoner of a daemonium may soon find that his clever servant's words have led him into a path of madness from which there is no escape even if the demon is banished.

Daemonia teach that the world that was born from chaos and will return to it one day. In the interim, forms exist, but only as meaningless transience. Reason is necessary to deal with this world, but in turn reason must be fractured in order to align with the madness as the root of creation. There are several races of daemonion, each of which embody a form of madness they seek to inflict on all others in creation.

Choleric daemonia embody manias. One may endlessly write with any instrument at hand, seeking blood if nothing else is available, scribbling meaningless phrases over and over unless a stronger creature can force it to write something useful. Another might constantly speak, to itself if needed, while another might compulsively clean every area it comes across (a truly futile task in Pandemonium). They also can cast charm person, wich caster levels equal to their HD. Advanced choleric daemonia can cast this more often per day, and use it to control lower-ranking brethren, setting them to constructing the walls of their extensive warrens, seeking prey, or undertaking whatever other tasks are necessary. Once a choleric daemonion has charmed a person it will try to get their help in doing whatever it is manic about. The poison of a choleric daemonion inflicts hideous laughter as if the daemonion had cast it, but without the saving throw bonus for being of a different species, and with a -4 penalty to saves. They are fairly small, randing from Small to Medium if laid straight.

Melancholic daemonia embody depression. They tend to be larger than the other races of daemonia, slower but stronger, tougher and relentless. They can cast crushing despair; their poison paralyzes. They are the higher-ranking internal enforcers of daemonic society and the physical defenders of their homes, with formations of choleric troops.

Phlegmatic daemonia embody fears: phobias and anxieties. Each has a specific phobia or fear, such as holy weapons, the number 13, being left alone, or paranoia. Their poison inflicts this phobia permanently until remove curse or cure disease is used. The least of their race can inflict doom at will, while older daemonia can use fear. Some barricade themselves within the daemonic warrens, while others flee known regions and can be found all across Pandemonium.

Sanguine daemonia embody delusions, hallucinations, and psychotic breaks. They are the best spellcasters of their race, although the least physically formidable. They are tiny and fast, hiding in the shadows as they work illusions of all kinds. Their racial power is suggestion and elder sanguines can use mass suggestion. They lie freely, but each daemonion is also subject to a particular delusion or constant hallucination, such as hearing voices, believing that a certain series of actions is a magic spell (when it's not), or the like and they often suggest this delusion. Their poison causes various hallucinations, often paranoia or hallucinatory enemies at random times until the poison is cured, the method for which varies. The most advanced of the sanguines can cause contagious delusions: their poison not only inflicts a delusion (often something social, such as "the enemy is coming," or "it is evil for women to speak in public"), but gives the sufferer the power to pass on the effect through their own speech. Fortunately, this effect seems to weaken with each transmission; the sanguine daemonia claim that it never truly dies away, and their madness has even today has woven itself into the reasoning of races all across the Multiverse.

If psionics are known in the campaign, psionic daemonia are common, usually with powers similar to the normal type for their race. An advanced psionic daemonium usually develops powers of compulsion or possession, and directly spreads their insanity.

-----

The warrens of the daemonia are an unpredictable complex of tunnels and rooms, full of crazy fiends barely held in check by the charms and enforced delusions of higher-ranking daemonia, whose sense of purpose is not something to trust your life to. And yet, there is reason to come. Daemonia are eager to spread their effects and are usually very willing to be summoned. Many of them in Pandemonium seek knowledge and skills that can make them useful to wizards willing to call them there, allowing them to stay on the Prime for long periods whispering wisdom in the ears of mortals.

The Fractured Library in the Central Warren is a hodgepodge of works collected from all across the Multiverse, constantly reorganized by the latest obsession of some choleric daemonion. Still, it contains many rare and fragmentary works that have been collected or copied by daemonia who have been summoned to the Prime and returned with select portions of their summoners' stores of knowledge. It is particularly rich with texts written by madmen, whom daemonia believe have touched the truth that underlies reality. There are daemonia who have spent centuries reading only these works, hoping to catch a glimpse of the underlying unity of anti-reason. Some of them become prophets, quoting oracularities or sending visions to the Prime; others disappear into the stacks, perhaps uniting with the Plane, or perhaps transcending it.

The Styx runs through the Warrens, sluggish and thin. In many places along its edges one may find a smaller daemonium sifting its waters with some weird instrument, attempting to isolate a useful compound or seize a floating sin. Some of these instruments might even work; others are simply nonsense. It is certain that some of these Styx-fishers have memories for sale, kept in peculiar little bottles, which have many an unusual effect upon the imbiber.

The very oldest daemonia, when they can even be found deep within the Warren, claim to have arisen when minds first came in contact with the primordial chaos. However, considering the mental influences to which these beings have been subject for millenia, their narratives are hardly trustworthy. It is known that today, new daemonia are culled from the petitioner population of Pandemonium by daemonia who recognize that a petitioner has developed a suitable insanity. When it seems appropriate, a daemonion will kidnap the petitioner and force it to undergo a ritual in which any arms and legs they may have are cut off and the body reshaped into the serpentine form of a daemonion, their mind tortured into a purified madness by the powers of a group from the race they are joining. (Which does leave the question: where did the first ones come from?)

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Nice! I like it! Using the

Nice! I like it!

Using the medieval humors for inspiring sub-types of daemonia (pl. daemonium?) was genius. Love the part about "fishing sins out of the Styx"; I actually used that in a game way back and it was very thematic and fun.

i wonder if the name "daemonia" is unique enough or too similar to the old name for yugoloths (daemons).

I also am curious about their appearance. Serpents do make sense occupying tunnels, I suppose, though there already are snake-men of various kinds in D&D.

Above I presented some potential images of unidentified fiends that might fit the "mad fiends" of Pandemonium. As an alternative, a poster at ENWorld suggested this creepy guy from Pans Labyrinth:

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Daemonic names and forms

Heh, yes, I sort of felt like the number of options for vaguely sinister-sounding spirit names was starting to run low.

I picked serpent forms because I wanted them to be closer to chaos than evil; primitive and simple, with only a small touch of threat. In a sense, they're well-intended, like Bleakers -- they're just crazy. Demons are more wild, vibrant and varied; daemonia almost don't bother with bodies. At first I had them disembodied, but I didn't want to remake loumara.

(And if the formians fell from Arcadia to Mechanus, could it be possible to lift the daemonia from Pandemonium to Limbo?)

A couple of snippets that wandered through my mind after I wrote this, which might be useful for color:

-----

If circumstances require it, a daemonion can change its particular madness by force of will, although it is constrained to the type of madness embodied by its race. This seems completely unreasonable to people familiar with the grip that madness can have on mortal minds, but then, a daemonion isn't mortal. Daemonia consciously seek just the right fracturing of reason that will align their minds with the irrationality of reality, the Perfect Madness. Their sages may seem completely sane for long stretches, until one realizes the broken logic of their methods.

-----

"Unlike the demons of the Abyss, or the yugoloths of the Waste, or the gods of the heavens, we do not claim to have created the material world, or mortal life. Material is material. It exists. That's what it does.

"You bag of water, you breath of air! You compounded tangle of magic and heat and gravity! By what right do you rise above the forces that stir the ocean and drag the tree up from the soil? You think you are free of the laws of chemistry, of physics? You are bound about by iron you cannot see.

"You think your amalgamation of atoms cares what shape it was in a moment ago? It moves according to the laws governing its state now, not before, not after. There is no purpose in the dance of an atom. There is no green in the leaf that exists before its reflected light touches the eye.

"This is the nature of the mind: the first delusion, the necessary one, that of free will. The second, that you exist from moment to moment in continuity. The third, that you experience a world of comprehensible forms.

"All souls are built upon this foundational madness. Free will, the self, are delusions. These delusions wrap themselves in the hallucination of experience, giving rise to needs -- anxieties, fears -- which motivate every being into the cycles of mania and depression which characterize its life.

"The only way to crack the prison of logic is madness. The only way to transcend physics is chaos. We did not create mortal life.

"We gave you your souls.

"You have always been ours."

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A couple more thoughts on daemonia

Namely, further reasons someone might risk coming to the Warrens.

*) Advanced psychological techniques

You might want to come here (or summon a skilled daemonium) to have the daemonia brainwash an enemy, to learn how to spread propaganda through a population or control a mob. The insane might learn techniques for turning their insanity to productive use. (Productive, that is, from the daemoniac viewpoint, which might or might not align with most other people's views.)

*) Neurophysiology

Material and mind interact in ways that fascinate the daemonia. They no doubt kidnap all manner of mortal (and other species), or extract victims as the price for their services, and perform intricate experiments on mortals' brains. Extensive surgical laboratories examine the effects of removal or enhancement of various portions of physical brains. Poisons, medicines, diseases and biological or mechanical enhancements might all be available here. Of course, only the desperate would volunteer for enhancement by fiends... but then, the planes are full of the desperate.

*) Mind control

Although there are several contenders for this title, daemonia probably have a decent claim to being among the best in the planes at mind-affecting spells and psionics. Need to lift a geas? Want to know a variant spell to hold a sort of creature, easier than the general hold monster? Want to learn secrets of illusion and enchantment? Although mad, and charging heavy tolls, the daemonia can probably aid your quest for knowledge on such things.

*) Conversion

And really, the study of the above subjects is not in itself fundamentally evil. It's their effects that lead them in to darkness; their unethical methods and disregard for others. What if the race could somehow be refocused more toward medicine and healing? What if one of them finds the Perfect Madness by attuning itself to pure chaos? Could the race -- and a chunk of Pandemonium -- be shifted into Limbo, to the profit of the forces of Good? Perhaps it's impossible to accomplish for mercenary reasons, but if it could be done... that would be an achievement for the centuries.

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my two cents

I don't think formians, bladelings, bariaurs, and so forth should really be counted as exemplars. They're all relatively mortal, and they seem to lack the variety that even the most lawful races (modrons and archons) possess, as well as the scaling hierarchy of even the most chaotic of exemplars (the slaadi).

Mechanus- Modrons. I love modrons.

Arcadia- Devas?

Mount Celestia- Archons. No problem.

Bytopia- This is where it gets tough... With that mention of the double-headed Janusean angels, my head immediately went to the chronotyryns...who are evil and are (currently) native to Acheron, but they've got two heads and somehow time manipulation aspect seems like it would fit in well with the industriousness of Bytopia. A starting point, maybe.

Elysium- I think the idea of pitting the devas against the asuras in a kind of heated rivalry makes for an interesting parallel conflict to the Blood War, but I don't know if either one can be placed definitively on any one plane. Bytopia is in the right 'slot' for the devas as I picture them, as is Ysgard for the asuras, but I don't think the character of either plane fits with the two. I can certainly see Elysium as being an obvious meeting ground for all kinds of celestials.

I could also see the planetars and solars (and cosmars and lunars, possibly?) as being as different from the devas as devas are from archons and asuras. Possibly as impartial arbiters of the Upper Planes as a whole? And in that case they'd fit very well in the background of Elysium.

Beastlands- Guardinals. Agreed. This also puts them directly opposite of Gehenna, which I still maintain is ideally suited to the rakshasa, who I think should be transplanted there.

Arborea- Eladrin. I actually sort of like the idea that the eladrin, fey, and elves are tangled together in some complicated family tree. My head-canon is that the elves spread across the multiverse in spelljammer ships and astral corsairs, eventually settling disparate corners of creation as rot set in on the old empire.

Ysgard- Asuras?

Limbo- Slaadi. What if the slaad most people see is merely the appearance the multiverse has settled on, the consensus view, a matter of what people have come to believe slaadi look like rather than what they truly are? Frogs are symbolic of change, and if slaadi are creatures of utter chaos, then perhaps paradoxically the average onlooker's mind simply takes the path of least resistance and sees what they've been told is supposed to be there. What if slaadi only look like slaads to people who've been told what a slaad is in the first place? What if what most people think of as the slaad are only symbols themselves, shorthand for something much larger than any individual slaad or even the race as a whole? The egg that becomes the tadpole, the tip of the iceberg. An idea I like, an adventure seed: every slaad is an island, a beachhead in the seas of limbo. They only appear to be the limited froglike creatures the outside world sees, and they only seem to be organic beings, monstrous creatures of unfettered hunger and nothing more. But every slaad contains infinities; within each slaad is the whole of layerless Limbo. Maybe those who are swallowed by the slaad only seem to die. Perhaps any given slaad is a Fantastic Voyage waiting to happen, a journey into a country of living flesh suffused with chaos-stuff, from the rushing rapids of the beating heart to the great city of castaways washed up in a churning acid of the stomach, the great curving staircase of the spine which leads to the gray maze of the brain. What if a slaad is like a door to a room they're already in? Just what is the meaning of that symbol branded on the forehead-wart of every slaad? Perhaps all the multiverse is within a slaad right now! Perhaps we are all slaads, only we do not know it! Perhaps you are the slaad, and you are eating me even as we speak!!

...ahem. Just a thought. But I do think the slaadi don't get the credit they deserve. The horror, and humour, of creatures who truly are just as likely to eat you as talk to you, who have no higher purpose, who aren't even particularly loyal to the alignment that is their very essence. Now that's chaotic. I like that they are so arbitrary, so seemingly uncomplicated, yet what order there is, in the form of the different colours of slaad, makes them even harder to understand. The hierarchy of the tanar'ri makes a kind of brutal sense, but the colours of the slaadi don't serve any real purpose except to divide them and make things more difficult.

That being said, I do think more could be made of slaad tadpoles and the transformation of other beings into slaadi. Maybe the proteans are a kind of slaad tadpole, where like the paradoxical frog, the tadpole grows to be larger (and in this case more powerful) in its juvenile state than in its eventual parent form.

Pandemonium- If they weren't already so endemic to the Gray Waste, I think this would be a great place for Hags-- solitary, many quite unique in their abilities, and dark, partially fey beings, in opposition to the goodly elves and sprites and satyrs and whatnot of Arborea. Pandemonium and Carceri are the two planes that most strongly evoke the Greek Underworld, and what with Mount Olympus also being in Arborea...

Alternatively, any obyriths who got shunted out of the Abyss. The defining feature of Pandemonium to me is loneliness, the isolation of madness, so I like the idea of highly powerful individuals rather than a 'race' in the normal sense.

The Abyss- Tanar'ri. A thousand worlds in varying states of near- or post-apocalypse, each giving rise to a kind of chimerical apex predator to serve as the archetype for the many breeds of demon? Your mileage may vary, but that's how I like to imagine the Abyss, as a gathering of all the myriad primes that managed to destroy themselves in truly epic fashion.

Carceri- Gehreleths. If you think of the black corrosive goo that permeates Carceri as not just mist or marsh or dust but actually the gehreleths themselves, in the form they take before they're able to pull together the semblance of a body from the corpses lining the ground of the Lower Planes, it makes them that little bit more distinctive to me. And it also helps explain why they're so commonly found in bottles.

Hades- Yugoloths. Especially the more insect-like and faceless 'loths, for the plane where identity and purpose are scoured away.

Gehenna- Rakshasa, seconded. The plane of exploitation seems ideal for the decadent, animal-faced Rakshasa, and I really like the idea of squaring them off directly against the guardinals. The idea that there could be a connection there-- possibly something related to the (lawful) neutral Egyptian pantheon-- that seems like the root of a story, possibly a whole campaign.

Baator- Baatezu. The classical nine circles of hell, for the classical red, gargoyle-like devils.

Acheron- I feel like you could get away with either one (or three) planes that don't have an exemplar, and if not Pandemonium (or Pandemonium, Ysgard, and Acheron) then Acheron seems like a good candidate. Perhaps a single exemplar, some vast, godlike personification of the Styx at the bottom of Ocanthus, maybe that could work. Leviathan, or the Aztec sea monster Cipactli, or some similar legend.

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Thoughts

Unsung wrote:
I don't think formians, bladelings, bariaurs, and so forth should really be counted as exemplars. They're all relatively mortal, and they seem to lack the variety that even the most lawful races (modrons and archons) possess, as well as the scaling hierarchy of even the most chaotic of exemplars (the slaadi).

Personally, I never really saw Formians as representative of Arcadia, but maybe that's just my prejudice against ant-centaurs as being the embodiment of harmonious order? However, they do have 4 sub-races in a hierarchy...which is more than the Gehreleths!

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Limbo- Slaadi. What if the slaad most people see is merely the appearance the multiverse has settled on, the consensus view, a matter of what people have come to believe slaadi look like rather than what they truly are?

Love your ideas on Slaadi! IMHO Slaadi have always deserved a better writeup that really makes them into exemplars of chaos. A other idea that dovetails into the "multiple forms" model of Slaadi is the ability of green, grey, and death Slaad to polymorph into other forms. Personally, I love the idea of them using this ability to infiltrate individualized heavens/Hells floating in bubbles around Limbo's petitioners; their aim would be to "burst their bubble", let the chaos soup wash away the illusions (and probably eat the petitioner too).
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Thanks for the kind words re: slaadi. :)

I like the idea of slaadi or other chaos-creatures smuggling themselves into the dream-bubbles of Limbo's petitioners, but what doesn't quite ring true with my conception of the slaadi is their deliberately seeking to disrupt anyone's personal final reward. Disruption is in their very nature, and if the slaad's appearance in the dream destroys it, it's because the dreamer isn't sufficiently imaginative to account for the added chaos-- but a truly inventive petitioner of Limbo can keep it going, just a-tapdancing as fast as they can... Because they're truly in harmony with the plane, because the dream is as much a part of them as they are of it, and the same goes for Limbo and the multiverse as a whole. Infinity welcomes powerful dreamers. Or something like that.

"The only thing that burns in hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life: your memories, your attachments. They burn 'em all away. But they're not punishing you," he said. "They're freeing your soul. If your frightened of dying, and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. If you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels freeing you from the earth."
-- Bruce Joel Rubin, Jacob's Ladder

I figured I'd get called out on the variety thing when it came to the gehreleths. I give them a bit of a pass-- the Rule of Three is in effect, they're marginalized by the other fiendish races, and they're a new-ish exemplar race, or at least one whose origins aren't entirely lost to the mists of time. That, and they really do thoroughly exemplify Carceri. Also, if you go with the idea that the fiendish races are a lot more interbred than they initially claim to be, and if the gehreleths are the black ichor rather than the hideous corpse bodies that the tar or slime or hair is holding together, then there could potentially be related fiends spread throughout the Lower Planes. Or not. It's one idea.

But going back to formians... The different sub-races don't seem like the ascending ranks of the other exemplars. Each seems like a mortal caste designation, something you're born into and die as. And formians do seem like they must age and die, right? They just don't strike me as an exemplar race, and even if they did, they don't seem like the exemplars of Arcadia's ideals. They strike me as more like the gith, bladelings and bariaurs-- at home in their chosen plane, but not defined by it, nor defining it by their presence. And, at the end of the day, they just don't strike me as very celestial, as otherworldly, as planar. They're not quite strange enough.

Is Arcadia even really a heaven? I could imagine it as a kind of purgatory. Arcadia is a plane that always seems somehow uncomfortable, I think, not just for visitors but for the people living there. They're the plane of perfection, yet somehow, they're never quite as good as they might like to be-- but they're not sufficiently enamoured of order not to care. They work so hard to be perfect, but who is that really a paradise for? It's not work for the joy of it, like on Bytopia, and as hard as they work Arcadia will never be as Good, with a capital G, as Celestia. Meanwhile the archons manage that by the mere fact of their existence, not because of what they try to do but by nature of what they simply *are*.

Arcadia can try to perfect lawfulness, then, but no one will thank them for it-- a full third of the plane slips away into Mechanus, and the modrons barely notice, while virtually anyone else in the multiverse would pitch a fit if they knew. And the modrons, unlike the Arcadians, have the benefit of indifference, of contentedness in mere striving alone, without hope of reward.

Arcadia is the plane of 'If you'd just tried a little bit harder...', the plane of always-someone-better, of as-good-as-it-gets, of better-than-the-alternative. It's an infinite plane of perfectly manicured, T-square straight utopias. But if perfection is the goal of the plane, then shouldn't one of them be the most perfect? A hair taller than the rest? A mere pimple ahead while crossing the finish line? A little more equal than the others? But then again, is anything truly perfect if it does not conform to its fellows? Tall poppies, as they say. The nail that sticks up, after all.

...But I guess there are those who would find heaven in this perpetual competition-- not as open as Ysgard, not as restful as Bytopia. I do still think the niggling imperfection that underlies perfect Arcadia is key to the character of the plane, and should play into the nature of its exemplars.

Devas? Unlike the firebrand archons, who generally seem to stick to big obvious targets, and planetars and solars, who appear to take their orders direct from the gods themselves, devas seem like they have more of a free hand in deciding how to serve goodness across the planes. It also seems like they stumble, and fall, more often because of it. If a celestial suffers a moral crisis, if they're stuck someplace poring over a religious quandary or a dilemma between doing good and doing right, devas seem like the go-to stereotypical halo-wringing angel. Mind you, it's a pretty small reference pool, but Unity-of-Rings and Trias the Betrayer (from Torment) do tend to stick in my memory.

Inevitables fit the (under)tone of Arcadia that I'm bringing up. Their harshness seems at least somewhat well=intentioned.

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"As restful as Bytopia"?

(Everything I'm about to say is totally my opinion and should not be taken as suggesting that someone else's interpretation is 'wrong"!)

You call Bytopia restful, which feels strange to me. Bytopia seems to me very much the plane of labor. It's the plane of paradise incarnated as flow, that sense of being in the moment as you pursue a purpose. It's the Heaven for people who find meaning in their work more than their play, the ones who want to spend eternity doing something useful.

By definition, then, at least some people can come to Arcadia and find rest. The formians are alive, and have to work, but Arcadia includes Heliopolis, which houses Osiris, protector of the dead. To be honest, Arcadia strikes me as a very static plane. People there like things just so and not changing.

There are probably vast, peaceful fields of mausoleums, pyramids and other tombs in Arcadia, serried ranks of marble rooms set in trim green lawns, where those who desire eternal rest can lay their heads when they have come to meet their gods after a long and troubled life. The celestials outside will protect their slumber as vigorously as they protect the other parts of their realm. Elysium is more in tune with the concept of eternal rest, but I think it has a place in Arcadia.

I don't see Arcadia as a plane of competition, either. There is plenty -- there are lots of paladins, after all -- but there are surely plenty of monks, too, whose spiritual disciplines aim in many ways at stillness. (Blink dogs are from Arcadia. They're also intelligent. I once had a blink dog monk character as a temporary PC/NPC, hailing from a monastery on the plane.) It's true that every society there thinks it has a bead on utopia, and frankly, being Paradise, it probably does. It helps that your inhabitants are mostly spirits. The philosophical debates are probably quite vigorous, but intraplanar warfare? In Heaven? Surely it's rare to nonexistent. It's not Acheron, after all.

Your description of Arcadia seems rather sad, to me, and I don't think it's a sad plane. You say it's always-somebody-better, but the rest of the Upper Planes aren't all jealous of Elysium. People in Arcadia like being there. They like having a place in a broader society, and most of them probably don't want to be running things. They want to be assigned a job and get good at it. Heck, I like proving my own theorems but I really like proving other people's conjectures -- it means at least one other person was interested in what I'm doing.

This is kind of rambling, but I guess my main point is that I don't think petitioners in Arcadia are dissatisfied with their lot. To them it's Heaven, and it's the one they prefer. I do really like your point that an underlying imperfection can be a key component of a plane's character, including that of its exemplars.

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I might be a little hyperbolic at times.

We-ell... If I came down a little hard on Arcadia, it was because I was playing devil's advocate. It does strike me personally as a fairly stifling place, even though I do recognize that the qualities that unsettle me are just what some people happen to like.

It's just that Arcadia is one of the more underwritten Outer Planes, and while it is often declared to be one of the most peaceful and perfect heavens, what is more often shown are the underlying flaws: the loss of Menausus, the restrictions on travel throughout the plane. If anything, Mount Celestia is probably even more difficult to travel freely in-- it's set up as a mountain on an island, which is presumably quite defensible, and guarded by flights of angels with magically enhanced senses-- but Celestia is not presented as unwelcoming. It might be, but that's not one of the first things you mention. With Arcadia it often is-- if you're not lawful good, they'd prefer you not stay. And outsiders are actively discouraged from visiting Abello-- a whole layer within a plane that does not run particularly deep. It's not like they're guarding a single area within that layer, or as in the case of Mount Celestia or Carceri, where the layers themselves are artificially finite. That seems telling to me. It doesn't necessarily make the plane itself a bad place to live-- provided you're the kind of person that would like living there. But the idea that not everyone is seems to be kind of the focus with Arcadia. Of all the lawful good planes, I think it's the most likely to support Trouble In Paradise themes, which is in keeping with its position on the Great Wheel.

Bytopia, The Beastlands, and naturally Elysium are all differing shades of restful, I think. Work can be calming, meditative, a rhythm of being that is natural and peaceful. Bytopia is a plane of contentment-- that's the kind of restfulness I mean. The Beastlands are a plane of simplicity, where survival might be sometimes tenuous but you are free. That's restful, too. It's why people go camping. And Elysium is as perfectly restful as any place can be.

Mount Celestia is not quite like that. There are petitioners there whose lives are nothing but peace and rest, too, I think, but the plane itself is more dynamic. The archons are not merely there to preside over good and protect the innocent, but to fight evil. And in that case, if Arcadia is somehow even more concerned with the law over the good, I don't think the static nature of the plane is about restfulness and contentment. I think they express their perfection through diligence, and set out to lead others by their example.

And that's not a bad thing, and it doesn't make them worse people. To strive to be the best and to elevate others can be a noble thing, but it is still a form of competition, even if the competition is subtle and unspoken. Competition can be good; questing after perfection can be good; but it prioritizes something ahead of the wellbeing of others, something behavioural or aesthetic. It's a very good thing indeed if it causes others to work harder and improve themselves. But it's precarious in the same way as the endless lusting after glory that you get in Ysgard.

I'm looking for sources of conflict in the planes, even the Upper ones. Even in heaven, the things that are likely to produce interesting adventures is a problem to solve, or at the very least something out of the ordinary. Likewise, the most evocative exemplars are ones the PCs can either fight with or alongside, whether with swords or words. It's hard to argue that taking the fight to the fiends or protecting the sanctity of the Upper Planes is wrong. It's easy-- and interesting! to question whether Arcadia is all it's cracked up to be. Even if maybe it is.

To put a finer point on all my carrying-on, though, I think an exemplar race that carries the torch of law and good and perfection a little too far (arguably) would be an interesting bunch for players to meet.

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Arcadia and potential representative species

The Peacable Kingdoms of Arcadia, as they were called originally, were described as embodying tranquility and strict discipline. It was based on Virgil's poetic pastoral ideal of Arcadia.

In the old PRP (planar renovation project) thread there was lots of talk about Arcadia as the land of Utopias; IIRC it was set up as city-states each with their own vision of Utopia.

I always conceived of it as the sort of place a Chaotic-aligned character would be distinctly uncomfortable, but where a Lawful character would appreciate the respect for traditional tried-and-true ways, the orderliness of daily life, and putting the community ahead of the individual. "The greatest good for the greatest number" is an Arcadian maxim.

They are also intolerant of those who act in favor exclusively of the individual, because to the Arcadian way of thinking that dishonors tradition and works against the common good. Intolerance comes in many forms, however, and I would see violence as a last resort for most Arcadians who value self-discipline and tranquility. Better to teach the foolish (or request they get out of town) rather than raise arms. I see sages and monks as the common denizens, those who devoted themselves to the "common good." Of course, soldiers who died in pursuit of just causes end up here in large numbers too, but they are most a defensive force in the Arcadian kingdoms (it's when they're off plane that you need to watch out).

Ed has a great description of Arcadian philosophy here: http://www.pathguy.com/arcadia.htm

So...what creature would make a good Arcadian representative species?

I see them as the ultimate social engineers, creating plans for Utopias that span centuries. Something like visionaries in our day designing arcologies and the BioSphere projects, only on a much greater scale. They are architects of entire legal, judicial, and executive political systems, not to mention accepted codes of social conduct to maximize the common good.

Thematically, Formians (wise ant-centaurs) just don't click for me as social engineers...they seem more interested in doing their own thing and not being bothered. Heck, in 3e they turned Formians into monstrous hive-minded creatures of Mechanus! 

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Planar Species

I think I get what the planar version Arcadia is supposed to be, but to me it always seemed to me that it was written with an undercurrent of skepticism. It could be cynicism on my part, or even that of the writers, but either way, I think on a meta level it was the Upper Plane most subject to deconstruction. While accounting for my own bias here, I feel like that was something they were conscious of and avoided with most of the other Upper Planes. They’re all supposed to be heaven, after all, but they still wanted to explore the flaws in the perfection, the idea that perfection itself can be a flaw, at least from a certain point of view.

The mythological Arcadia is probably more closely realized in Elysium or especially Arborea, what with the latter's Greco-Roman influences and the elven focus living in harmony with nature. Arcadia-the-Outer Plane is less Edenic, more utopian, and those are subtly different things. Like Plato's Republic or Thomas More's Utopia, or utopias in general, it seems to be the idea of a paradise-on-Earth achieved, and built by mortal hands and minds. With or without divine guidance, it's something people made, something lasting, and, one could infer, an improvement on what was there before. Which isn't quite the mythological Arcadian ideal of a return to simpler times.

Eh. I'm nitpicking. I sound like I've got a beef against Arcadia itself, and I don't. I'm just in love with the idea of taking it down a peg, not for spite, but because I think it would be interesting as a story. Pride often seems ripe for a fall, and any given utopia doubly so. That's why you get Bioshock (1, 2, and Infinite).

I buy the idea of formians as Arcadian petitioners, as people for whom the colony life is its own utopia. Maybe the Arcadian exemplars shouldn't be one unified race, but rather a committee of these social engineers, each one drawn from one of the various utopian communities to be found across Arcadia, and elevated, given divine powers. It amuses me that the Arcadia, all about peace and unity, could be one of the most diverse Outer Planes.

--
Moving along... Time for more crazy conspiracy theories from me, disguised as proposals for exemplar races.

“Stygians” (Acheron)- Kytons, Bladelings, Maugs, Nupperibos, others. Beings of pain and metal and detachment, of punishment and binding. Pain elementals; Cenobites, basically. If a certain adventure in Tales From The Infinite Staircase is any indication (iA Devil’s Dream), there’s a whole race of older fiends native to Baator that’s being suppressed (a nupperibo unprocessed into a lemures seemed on the verge of promoting itself spontaneously into something vaguely kyton-like, and then there’s the thing in the cave in Squaring the Circle). The baatezu are the interlopers on Baator, despite what they’d have you believe. What if their suppression of the Ancient Baatorians is causing them to manifest elsewhere on the Lower Planes? Or maybe their origins go all the way back to before there was more than one Lower Plane, before they became divided or slid out of the Prime Material or the other Outer Planes, however it was they came to exist.

Kytons obviously have torture and binding as a theme, what with the hook-tipped chains, while maugs have sort of an encased-in-an-iron maiden look to them, and bladelings’ skin is nothing but sharp edges. And if they are related, a suppressed exemplar race with a chain motif, why not chained gods? The bound Greater Titans of Tartarus/Carceri, just for starters. If they weren’t related to the Ancient Baatorians/Stygians before, perhaps long exposure is slowly causing them to become corrupted. If so, it’s just one more reason for the gehreleths to keep them locked up. And that’s not even mentioning the Chained God himself, Tharizdun. In On Hallowed Ground he’s mentioned as occupying an unknown demiplane, but his influence could go a long way to explaining the insanity of Pandemonium. Maybe the kytons worshipped him, even as they sought to bind him, as they do everything. It doesn’t have to be Tharizdun, actually, but I like the idea that they have bound evil gods in the past, and that even now they seek to keep those entities bound.

I like the idea of a race of dungeon masters-- still evil, but evil with a higher purpose, and not merely a hidden agenda or plans for the future of Evil itself, but something actually resembling good intentions, merely...twisted. I think there’s room for that in Acheron, hidden in the debris of the lower layers, or bored beneath the surface of the iron cubes themselves. I mean, cubes? Cube? Cube 2: Hypercube? Giant cubes full of traps?

“Arcadians” (...Arcadia, except not quite)- I’ve led up to this before, but what if all the major animal-headed races of the Outer Planes really are connected? The Godsmen seem to be at least partially correct about how gods come to be, so what if the gods of the Egyptian pantheon (and Mayan and Aztec and various others) look the way they do because that’s how they looked as mortals? What if the pyramid these cultures have in common is something leftover from their mortal past, before they ascended, first to exemplardom, then onto godhood? Animal lords, guardinals, rakshasas, even arcanoloths, the could all be offshoots of the old stock, speciated after long isolation from each other.

In a mythic sense, animals and spirits are often treated as one and the same in many cultures-- the ancestors of men, often godlike in their own right. Maybe that’s somewhat true, for a given value of true. Like the angels and fiends, these animal people are one of many races who claim to have been the First People-- given fire or light by the Sky Father, the first beings to walk ashore from the dark sea of primordial chaos. But then there are others who make similar claims. But maybe they’re all true-- maybe it was the same sea.

Titans (Ysgard)- Another race with a claim to having been the First People. They’re the children of chaos, the firstborn children of the Mother Earth and the Sky Father, the jotuns who were vanquished by the Aesir and forced to dwell far from tranquil Asgard and Midgard, the titans who were overthrown by the Olympians, the giants who enslaved the ancient dwarves. Maybe the Titans as exemplars are a living example of mortals in the process of attaining that status for themselves-- or losing it, depending on who you ask and when. Also, think about Cyclopes and Hundred Handed Ones, and Echidna and Typhon and their whole monstrous brood (or Loki and Angrboda, for the jotun example). They’re also children of Gaia, or only a few steps removed, and maybe they could also be thought of as Titans of a sort.

Could the Titans be considered the First Monsters, maybe? The planes are home to plenty of monsters, after all.

Angels (Elysium)- Call them aasimon if you want, but by any other name, they’re the servants of a god. The God, maybe. The original Creator, the prime mover unmoved, if there ever was such a thing. Or maybe there wasn’t, and they simply exist, as functionaries of divinity, itself just a mechanism, a principle of reality that just is, like gravity. And if that is the case, then the goodness of planetars and solars is perhaps the strongest evidence in the planes that good is right and to do evil is wrong… If you accept it as credible evidence, that is.

I think if there’s a stereotypical cloud heaven, a layer of a plane with pearly gates and a saint at the door, manned by colossal shimmering beings of light with wings and halos… One could do worse than to put it on Elysium.

“Gnomes” (Bytopia)- Not gnomes as in the player race, but the older elemental variety, as well as brownies, the domovoi, certain kami, or Santa’s elves-- household spirits, small gods, little helpers, personifications of places and worldly phenomena. Beings of the most absolute humility there is, who exist only to help and do good deeds-- and to perhaps teach a little humility in return, to those who need it.

They could take all kinds of shapes and sizes, but I think their most common qualities could be turning invisible and being particularly nonviolent for an exemplar race, and perhaps not quite as ostentatiously beautiful as the other Upper Planar outsiders. As gnomes are to elves, these are the less sparkly kind of fey, the hairy ungraceful kind of fey.

The empty plane (Pandemonium)- I think Pandemonium’s exemplars could be conspicuous by their absence, but its tunnels could be frequented by hags, kytons, titans, and ancient liches of extinct races, their only common ground being they all think they know the truth behind the mysteries of the place.

On Ysgard, you can fall over the side of an earthmote and land in Limbo; perhaps as Ysgard rises above the chaos, Pandemonium lies submerged in it, and the whistling wind is as much the breath of Limbo swirling through the caverns as it is the susurrus of the soup eroding the stone shell of the plane.

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Ysgard exemplars

Quote:
Ysgard: Valkyries
I know there's a lot of life in Ysgard - bariaur, giants, lillend, and other races, but none of them meet all the criteria I set out at the beginning. And there's been a gap in many depictions of Ysgard with a lack of the Valkyries (or they only were given a cursory treatment in Deities & Demigods).

I think the appropriate race for Ysgard are the disir (Norse female ancestral / tutelary /land spirits; singular dis: not to be confused with Dragonlance disir). Valkyries are explicitly called “Odin’s Disir” (Herjans dísir) in one Old Norse poem, and so should be a subrace of them. Many disir are associated with fertility and growth. For more about this race, see http://norse-mythology.org/disir/

KnightOfDecay
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Interesting. This would make

Interesting. This would make them an exclusively female planar species (not sure whats their male counterpart Norse mythology are).

The Merseburg Incantations also mention the Idisi.

Eiris sazun idisi, sazun hera duoder;
suma hapt heptidun, suma heri lezidun,
suma clubodun umbi cuoniouuidi:
insprinc haptbandun, inuar uigandun.

Once sat women,
They sat here, then there.
Some fastened bonds,
Some impeded an army,
Some unraveled fetters:
Escape the bonds,
flee the enemy!

Fits Ysgard quite well.