The Devil's Stair
Welcome to the Devil’s Stair!
To look upon a medium, one must first identify the boundaries, or ends. Where is the end of an endless space? The best way to describe the Planescape is top to bottom. Astral Sea to Elemental Chaos. One can choose to say it is infinite, in a euclidean sense, and in doing so lose a good deal of sanity then trying to define exactly what the infinite means to a human, a fundamentally finite perspective.
Not the best plan.
Instead, define your space by contrasts.
The Devil’s Stair Okay, I picked it cuz it sounded cool, sue me =P anyway, a lot of it you already know the most basic assumption of the setting is that the ancient god and primordial war is still raging I’m going to go one step farther and really dig deep into the fundamental mechanics of a universe torn in two by strife but before all that, a little on origin: The Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos are both infinite spaces, but this doesn’t really mean much physically anything infinite is actually pretty insignificant, because the concept is lost on the mortals who view it… a fundamentally ‘finite’ being so, if there are no ends, it’s better to try and define these spaces by their contrasting nature it reads easier if you start with the assumption that, in order to establish a workable reality that can exist in a physical, mental, spiritual, whatever sense, you have to first go to each extreme and work down practically, it means this: The Elemental Chaos is all mass, energy, bodies, physics and motion it is a great machine The Astral Sea is, quite fittingly the opposite there is no motion It is all perspectives, theories, and viewpoints the essence of intelligence and life, but none of the charm the truth is, neither planes mean anything without the other just like darkness is meaningless without light I’m cutting the abstract chatter now, but it’s been fun =) Sometime in the whenever, they yearned to clash it’s only natural, and in fact the two opposites probably came into being needing this very thing chaos surged upward, and shaped massive gouts of structure and form and mechanism with it’s rough hands the sea likewise pulled itself down and flooded the area with life essence directions are going to be kept consistent for the audience’s sanity, even though they’re as far from the proper description as possible physically, just imagine that the elemental chaos is always beneath the astral sea so, this union changed each of the planes dramatically rocks, ice, wind and fire without thought is just good mathematics but motes of the astral left sentiences dwelling in these physical harbors, wondering just what the hell was going on likewise, the stagnant astral sea was given separation, some weird semblance of physical form ike a gravitational field like a stretched canvas with objects of varying weight placed on it this is where divine beings come from, because without at least the slightest bit of elementality, the astral sea was just one big pile of sentience so the mixing and mashing together happened roughly in a gradient spatially, there was now this ratio of astral to elemental that started high and went down somehow in the middle, the proportion was just right to birth something kind of like a continent, populated by beings of sentience this is a marvel neither the gods nor the primordials could ever achieve on their own in this setting, divinity is as much a trap as it is an ascendence no god could touch a thing and change it with their fingers they have only ideas and belief likewise, the very concept of deliberation is anathema to a primordial they can think and reason, in great emotional surges, but it’s just that both god and primordial looked at the natural world in the middle, and saw something so much superior in some ways to themselves oh, they wanted it badly so that’s where life comes from and that’s where the war starts so the natural world is really something quite remarkable it exists both within and separated from the bounds of either chaos or sea the two fundamental planes of existence can be said to be everywhere through it and around it, you just can’t see them so, instances of armies of archons marching across a flowery plain are rare indeed however, the effects of the war are VAST, in many other ways the war really isn’t as destructive for the innocent people of the natural world as one may think though as much or as little as they know or can guess, their world is in constant danger of being breached by, again, just the right ratio of divinity to elementality which, as I’ve strived to demonstrate, rub off on each other ooh, dragons are a great example of a very close disaster for the natural world but more on that later anyway, if there’s a war happening within around and through us, but we never see it’s effects, how do we know it’s happening? for the people of the world, it’s a spiritual and ethical war a war in their minds not quite so constantly dramatic as all that, but everyone feels it a slight nagging sensation, like they’re being pulled in a few too many directions at once the world is not round and neat and pretty as a matter of fact, it’s physical composition is roughly a big garden variety salad of all the best and worst bits of the chaos and the sea people live on motes of earth that can range from continent landmasses to pastoral islands altitude is a pretty big consideration for one reason or another, these islands manage to find their way up or down, presumably depending on the density of masses above and below it the air is quite something else calamitous updrafts of hot gushing gasses are just as prevalent as heart-wrenchingly cold voids that yank a traveler downwards, and rub shoulders with the most common, pleasant, breathable breezes that are quite bouyant do not expect jump rules and gravity to work like in real life flight’s a pretty precious commodity, but nearly anybody can find a way to travel among the islands with the right amount of conviction for a very specific example, dragonborn, a constantly aching, overwrought and dynamic race with worried complexions, are worth a mint in employ as messengers, soldiers, traders, and emissaries the most popular of them (scions of arkhosia) can quite easily fly across the islands under their own power… but don’t ask too much of a dragonborn more on that later magical levitation works, teleportation ritual circles are quite popular… all kinds of ways new-fangled gliding and traditional flight machines are on the rise there have even been stories of determined and resourceful people manipulating the elementality of the air to their advantage floating on tiny chunks of rock quite improbably, sliding down horizontal waterfalls and traveling in a barely controlled free fall, kept afloat only by something as simple as a poofy coat like the rules in the manual of the planes with enough willpower, the world can be manipulated anyway, that’s how one gets around each island is a sprawling enigma unto itself No one knows how they stay afloat, or how exactly to keep the oh-so precious ecology of food chains and life cycles stable enough for habitation but there are no limit to the explanations good examples I’m thinking of are monstrous arcane machines, upkept by an enduring and stoic race of mechanical creations who have no idea that their daily routines, the work and labor of their lives (of which they know nothing else), keeps thousands of people alive conversely, there are innumerable stories of islands not floating, but kept stationary by being constantly pulled upward on divine threads dark080matter (6:41:25 PM): so basically… not quite Because a Wizard Did It, but Because the Planar Balance Dictates It something like that but there are conflicts to be had everywhere arcane machines always take just as much as they give in often sinister ways that can go unnoticed some of the most successful islands are populated by supremely pious people who claim that their very prayers are the things that keep them from plummeting and for all intents and purposes, they probably are there are horror stories of islands losing the thing that makes them float but by and large, people get by on varying levels of vertical position the more cynical and learned types call this formation of life, clinging desperately to it’s perches, the Devil’s Stair edit this page and put in the description of your campaign.
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