Li Po's Guide to the Abyss
Living the Chaotic Evil Alignment

Men are not in hell because God is angry with them. They are in wrath and darkness because they have done to the light, which infinitely flows forth from God, as that man does to the light of the sun who puts out his own eyes.

Who ever heard of a clockwork orange? Then I read a malenky bit out loud in a sort of very high type preaching goloss: "The attempt to impose upon man, a creature of growth and capable of sweetness, to ooze juicily at the last round the bearded lips of God, to attempt to impose, I say, laws and conditions appropriate to a mechanical creation, against this I raise my sword-pen."

        -- Anthony Burgess, "A Clockwork Orange", 1962

The real strong have no need to prove to the phonies.

        -- Charles Manson
Unfathomable to mere mortals is the lore of fiends.

        -- Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown"

There were moments when [Dorian Gray] looked on evil simply as a mode through which he could realize his conception of the beautiful.

        -- Oscar Wilde

The simplest Surrealist act consists of dashing down into the street, pistol in hand, and firing blindly, as fast as you can pull the trigger, into the crowd.

        -- Second Surrealist Manifesto

The best way I can describe them is to think of the worst imaginable person stripped of every impulse to do good. Some of them seemed to be able to tell others what to do, but I had no sense of any structure of hierarchy in an organizational sense. They didn't appear to be controlled or directed by anyone. Basically they were a mob of beings totally driven by unbridled cruelty and passions.

        Howard Storm's experience is described here.

Help yourself to my Planescape Character Generator for MS-DOS.

In some liturgies, worshippers renounce, or reaffirm their renunciation of, "the glamour of evil." On the Abyss, the glamour of evil is an utter rejection of both common sense and common kindness. In our own world, some people think this is what they really want.

Medieval Europe, the culture on which much of AD&D is based, depicted the spiritual powers of evil as ugly and dangerous, like human misbehavior, but also vulnerable and ignorant.

Li Po and I believe that this mirrors real life. When we see how repulsive evil is, most people will make the right choices most of the time. So long as we live, we can try to find the grace to live better.

Gary Gygax chose the name "Abyss" for the realm of Chaotic Evil, and suggested it might have 666 (the New Testament "number of the beast") layers. "Abyss" is Greek for "no bottom"; the term appears in the last book of the Christian Bible as "the bottomless pit".

The Abyss consists of many different kinds of universes, all of the most disgusting evil, full of meaninglessness, greed, bickering, despair, tedium, and idiotic hate. The most furious, raging evil is found here. The locals have as their goal destruction of all that is good or even natural. Many of the things that they enjoy most are probably better left undescribed. All are ready to betray anybody whenever it is in their self-interest. Faith communities dedicated to chaotic evil are easier to find in the abyss than on the prime plane, where they tend to remain hidden. But there as here, the faithful unite around one charismatic individual with some grandiose, unspeakably wicked vision. The leaders and their cults hate one another.

This is the spiritual home of the most atrocious and imaginative criminals, of those who destroyed for sheer fun or "creative self expression", and of the most disorganized evil creatures. The spiritual powers here seek power by means of wanton destruction, and seek to corrupt souls through hatred of all authority and reason. They offer sexual, pseudo-mystical, and magical temptations. Those who sample these pleasures may well discover that they have become addicted, and cannot be happy without doing things that hurt those around them. This is the only plane where inhabitants actually boast of their villainies. But even in the Abyss, open-faced evil is poor politics when one is dealing with outsiders. The locals usually present themselves as champions of individual creativity and excellence, who have made tremendous sacrifices in order to become "fulfilled individuals". Expect to hear a lot of rhetoric identical to what you have already heard from our own world's Far Left. And on this plane where evil is so strong and disorganized, their ideology drives them to commit the most extreme, imaginative atrocities both against visitors and against each other.

Even if you profess chaotic-evil alignment, please respect TSR's copyrights. Although the residents of the Abyss boast of their evils, misappropriating the works of individual creative artists takes neither brains nor courage. Here is no place to show yourself to be a weak loser.

In the Abyss, any un-repented crimes that visitors may have committed are public knowledge. Misbehavior will probably result in transformation of the perpetrator. All pure things, unless they are specially sanctified, become corrupted. Primitives will find the most degenerate of their kind. Mottos are unprintable. Public portals between the layers and to remote planes may take any form. Portals to "Pandemonium" are typically activated by jumping off a cliff into the wind (be sure you have good information before trying this). Portals to "Carceri" are caves. Other gateways exist between and within planes, some of them activated by killing the guardian. Dirty yellow pools to the astral appear at random here, and can be moved freely. There are innumerable, unending slum, slave, and prison riots. The locals find the idea that real altruism exists to be laughably naive. They are convinced that anyone claiming to be of good alignment is merely using it to mask some secret agenda of selfish cruelty. Because evil is so powerful here, the locals lack even the ordinary loves of our world -- family, friendship, romance. These instead become ways in which a stronger being preys on a weaker being. The locals will talk a lot about cruelty as a way of "building character." The residents of the Abyss find the whole idea of unselfish love to be utterly disgusting. The uppermost layer is a wasteland, from which the evil creatures project to other worlds. Cities in the wasteland are copies of the worst parts of all the universe's towns. Prices are preposterously high. The city of Gallowsgate is ruled by an ambitious snake-creature and is popular with the Doomguard. Styros is a barracks town. The plane between contains holes, mostly filled with unpleasant liquids of various kinds, which lead to deeper layers. The town of Broken Reach, governed by a succubus, contains the portal to the Outlands. Combat is forbidden inside the city walls. There is also a massive forge. The planes below are tremendously varied. There are deserts of weird colored sand. There are the "Iron Waste" glaciers of weird colored ice in perpetual night, the spiritual homes of a few evil frost giants. There are worlds of nothing but air, without gravity. There are maelstroms, like other chaotic universes, but that do not respond to normal sentience. There are rocky universes of volcanic lava. There are universes of solid rock, with caves and tunnels. There are ocean-bottom worlds, including "Gaping Maw", the home of Demogorgon's cult which caters to the most bizarre and depraved members of every race ("the lowest of the low", "the bottom feeders"). There are vacuum universes where ordinary visitors explode. There are universes of delusion that appear wholesome, but where all features will try to kill visitors. There are private homes where visitors are not welcome. There are realms full of undead, including icy "Thanatos, the Belly of Death", formerly the realm of Orcus, now taken over by a dark elf cult centered in the town of Naratyr, where the central palace has walls of flesh and carpets of hair. All creatures take a penalty of -2 on constitution here, and any creature dying in Thanatos becomes undead. Somewhere in Thanatos is the Book of Lies, where all the lies ever uttered by any being are listed, but not in context. ("No, I don't think you're too fat.") There are universes of extreme evil -- good creatures cannot enter, neutrals are imprisoned, and evils become bodaks (there are warnings). There are lost planes, from which no captive can escape, and where a "gate" merely open to another point on the same plane. "Woeful Escarand" is a place of judgment for dead sinners. Gnoll heaven ("Yeenoghu's realm" of saw-grass savannah and bones) and dark elf heaven ("The Demonweb Pits") are both here. The dark elves hold the philosophy that in the end, everybody is spider food, so live accordingly, without respect for life or kindness or rules, finding meaning in depravity and caprice and in savoring the suffering of others. Troglodyte heaven ("Rotting Plain") is a festering swamp ruled by a gigantic, hungry lizard. The motherland of the evil beholders is the "Realm of a Million Eyes". The "Phantom Plane" is a realm of evil lizard folk indifferent to the politics of the rest of the abyss. "Twelve-trees" is a realm in which twelve of the holy angels were supposedly caught and crucified, and where weapons against other unholy creatures are forged. "Blood Tor" is the realm of Beshaba's cult, and bad luck follows its visitors. The "Slime Pits" are a morass of sludge, home to the Juiblex and Zuggtmoy cults. "Sulfanorum" is a realm of low-burning fires and massive amounts of smoke. The "Worm Realm" of twisting tunnels is home to the evil gnome "Urdlen" cult, and visitors get malignancies or fungal infections in 2d6 months. The insane dwarf Diinkarazan is imprisoned in a whirling realm of distorted distances, and becomes sane and effective (but not nice) for one day every fifty years. The "Caverns of the Skull" is home to the Kali cult, where the evil dead kill one another and are reincarnated immediately after. "Azzagrat" is the three planes of an evil tyrant-illusionist, which keeps the appearance of an orderly, cosmopolitan, decorous police state. In one of these, fire is cold and ice is hot. "The Plains of Gallenshu" is a realm of centaur fiends, gangs on eternal forced march. The ground here is made entirely of rotten body parts, and the air is a "stinking cloud". Everything except metal and material of Abyssal origin rots within a month. The town of Blackmane is neutral territory for the centaur fiends. The town of Oxblood produces cavalry fiends. "Torremor" is a realm of pillars and perches, with gravity (which changes from time to time) but no ground, where flying creatures and perpetual freefall are the norm. Falling water produces beautiful rainbows, and falling guano and corpses are nuisances, while a cult strings razor wire. It is breeding territory for fly fiends. Portals to the Outlands, Pandemonium or Tarterus in the uppermost layer are holes in the ground.

Spell alterations in the Abyss: All magic draws the locals' attention in the Abyss, and usually that isn't what you want. Alteration spells always produce a result that is more or less nasty. If it's an alteration that really changes a creature, a prime requisite check by the caster is required or it will be very nasty and permanent. Conjuration-summoning have a 10% chance per level of bringing a hostile foul fiend. Divinations directed at a foul fiend invite counter-spells of similar kind (visual, auditory, etc.), up to two spell-levels per level of the spell cast. ESP on a foul fiend requires a saving throw; if successful, the caster is feebleminded for 2d6 hours, otherwise insanity develops and some spell slots are permanently lost (1-8 levels, depending on the creature probed). Illusion-phantasms are extra-effective. Created undead will be animated by hostile lost souls, and they will attack their creator. Wild magic surges require two rolls, and the worse of the two affects the caster. Elemental spells must be keyed. Spells that protect from the elements require a check vs. the caster's prime requisite or they will fail at the worst time. Destructive elemental spells produce +1 point of damage per die. It seems likely that spell keys can overcome at least some of these problesm.

Wizardly spell keys are blood and/or money and/or defiling something pure. Power keys given to clergy are often miniature skulls.

Third edition "Manual of the Planes" focuses primarily on simplifying and encouraging individual campaign creativity. Ideas include:

  • The suggested color for pools from the astral is amethyst. Ethereal curtains might be swirling red.
  • The dead are immune to electricity and poison, and as an additional ability are allowed to travel to other planes.
  • The plane is "mildly evil-aligned" and "mildly chaos-aligned". Good and lawful creatures have -2 (adding as necessary) on charisma checks.
  • I respectfully suggest that the Abyss be regarded as thoroughly evil and thoroughly chaotic. These effects would be cumulative

      -1 on all intelligence, wisdom, and charisma checks for all non-good, non-evil creatures
      -2 on all intelligence, wisdom, and charisma checks for all good creatures
      -1 on all intelligence, wisdom, and charisma checks for all non-lawful, non-chaotic creatures
      -2 on all intelligence, wisdom, and charisma checks for all lawful creatures
      Good-based spells simply fail.
      Evil-based (non-lawful) spells work as if caster were 4 levels higher.
      Law-based spells simply fail.
      Chaos-based (non-good) spells work as if caster were 4 levels higher.

    The Fourth Edition has moved the Abyss itself to the realms below. Kalandurren is a realm in the astral sea, surrounded by "a flickering color veil of pale gray." Those who enter will find it taken over by demons and by the remnants of the Doomguard, whose ideology is now "destroying anything that attempts to impose its order on the cosmos, be it deity, devil, domain, or natural law." Perhaps visitors would get bonuses or penalties to intelligence, wisdom, and charisma-based skill checks depending on how much their behavior has been in keeping with the ideals of the locals.

    In keeping with the flexibility of the third and fourth editions and the backgrounds of many players, perhaps the Abyss is essentially a world where like-minded spirits meet. It looks and works like our own world, except that it is dominated by weird cults of hate and senseless cruelty. Most disturbing, it might not be much different, at first glance, from much of our earth. NPC attitudes are typically "hostile". The demons of the Abyss are a fiendish non-human (or formerly human) race devoted to promoting the community's ideals among the living by encouragement and subtlety, rather than by force. The dead find communities matching their own ideals and interests, and continue to live much as they did on earth, though no longer able to visit the Prime Plane.

    Instead of the "gods" of polytheism, each living Chaotic Evil divine spellcaster is sponsored (and monitored) by a prayer fellowship with similar interests based on the Abyss. For the fourth edition, I suggest no penalties for divine spellcasters from elsewhere. For earlier editions, I respectfully suggest that the only penalty for such a cleric on a differently-aligned outer plane is the loss of one spell of the highest available level for each plane removed, with the Outlands two planes from Mechanus, Elysium, Limbo, and the Gray Waste. When one level is depleted, spells of the next highest level are lost. Thus a cleric sponsored from the Abyss would lose one spell on Pandemonium or Carceri, and eight spells in Mt. Celestia. Moving to the Outlands loses four spells.

    A world where love is non-existent and replaced by wanton destructiveness would be as horrible as any rules-intensive world ever visited by adventurers.

Referees might not want players to realize that they have entered the Abyss. Depending on the site of arrival, visitors might believe they are in a post-holocaust world dominated by weird, cruel cults. Ideologies presented by the clergy are unprintable.

[Do Justice, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly] In our world, professing chaotic evil alignment is bad politics. Even the worst people claim moral high ground, citing present or historic injustices, needs for personal freedom and expression, and so forth. Here are how some persons who may be of chaotic evil alignment have presented themselves. Follow the links, and you'll see through the bunk.

  • In Verdi's opera Otello, Iago has an aria in which he says everybody is really chaotic-evil. Click here for the translation.

  • A Clockwork Orange presented a chaotic-evil hero, Alex, whose crimes evidenced "creativity". He sang a Fred Astaire number while leaving a man paralyzed, etc., etc. The novel's police and government are also oppressive and corrupt, so during the Vietnam War era, Alex and his "droogies" were very highly regarded at liberal Brown. Just as there are no good-aligned characters in the novel, the residents of the Abyss do not believe that anyone is genuinely good.

  • Anton LaVey presented satanism simply as natural morality, looking out for yourself without the pretentions and hypocrisy of mainstream religion. You will probably laugh at this link, which claims to be "just a small glimpse of a man that [sic.] has forever changed the future of mankind."

  • Charles Manson and his people talked about the quest for religious experience and personal excellence.

  • Aleister Crowley, drug addict, murderer, pervert, satanist, and con man, followed the example of other black magicians in claiming to perform holy liturgy.

  • Frederick Nietzsche, a syphilitic cripple, presented his cruel power fantasies as serious philosophy. His apologists point out that he did live in an emotionally repressed, conformity-dominated era.

  • Loeb and Leopold murdered a boy supposedly after subscribing to a nutty philosophy about "supermen".

  • The Marquis de Sade wrote openly about the wide range of sexual variations and fantasies. Evil or just truthful, his self-indulgent talk about things that hurt unwilling people gave us the word "sadism". Wikipedia writes, "His is a philosophy of extreme freedom (or at least licentiousness), unrestrained by ethics, religion or law."
    Marquis de Sade

  • Young Goodman Brown

    "Lo! there ye stand, my children," said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad, with its despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race. "Depending upon one another's hearts, ye had still hoped that virtue were not all a dream. Now are ye undeceived! Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome, again, my children, to the communion of your race!"

    "Welcome!" repeated the fiend-worshippers, in one cry of despair and triumph.

  • Even Idi Amin has his apologists, who say it's all European colonialism's fault.

  • For an examplar of the chaotic evil ideology, see Peter Sellars as the Ghost of the Christmas Yet to Come in Rod Serling's Carol for Another Christmas (1964).

  • You can find, on your own, the neo-pagan sites that claim that all talk about goodness is "racist, sexist, classist, and creedist". There is a wide-range of left-wing political advocacy, but nothing about simple kindness to others. (Life has taught me that no shout-and-pout leftist ever lifts a finger to help a neighbor in genuine need.) Obviously this is the left-wing/chaotic counterpart to the right-wing pseudo-Christian and pseudo-Islamic legalist hate cults based on Baator. I talked at some length with one of their proponents here in Kansas City some years ago. He told me straight-up, "I know it is all bullsh-t, I am just in it for the sex."

  • Mongoose Publishing has published a guide to a "Zahhak", a plane resembling the Gray Waste, though supposedly chaotic-evil.
  • The Abyss

The Plane of Hell -- full of abusive egomaniacs. "With a feeling of sick familiarity, I recognized here my own thinking."
Don Brubaker -- "You'll first experience hell", God said evenly, with a tone of complete control, "to prove to you the reality of evil. You've only believed that there was goodness. You must see for yourself that hell is real." Link is now down.
Near Death Experiences -- including accounts of hell.
Hell's Dominion -- a near-death experience

Howard Storm records a near-death experience.

[Storm describes himself as a selfish man who not only didn't believe but detested those who did.] I thought of how cold-hearted and cruel and manipulative I was. I felt where I had ended up was where I belonged, and that the people who had come and picked me up and taken me to this place were people who had lived lives like mine. We were people who hadn't loved God and hadn't loved fellow human beings. Now in this place, there was nothing left but to tear and gnaw on one another, which was essentially what we had done on earth. I was also aware that this was just the beginning, and that it was going to get worse. Much, much worse. I knew the only way to survive in this place was to be crueller than the people who were around you. There was no kindness, no compassion, no hope.

Hordes of the Abyss -- D&D hardback devoted to these planes. Primarily rules options for the worst horror and depravity, and how good adventurers can resist and combat it -- sometimes by direct confrontation, sometimes by bold fidelity to goodness and love. It is not primarily a literary work, as "Planescape" was. Still, a central theme is that it is human misbehavior that gives spiritual evil its footholds in our own world. And the evil of the demons themselves is as stupid and banal as most of our world's, as well.

Final Note

Unity of the Rings -- comic book art

Gamers for Christ -- news group

The Alignment Planes

The Abyss -- Chaotic Evil
Acheron -- Lawful, Evil Tendencies
Arborea -- Chaotic Good
Arcadia -- Lawful, Good Tendencies
Baator -- Lawful Evil
The Beastlands -- Good, Chaotic Tendencies
Bytopia -- Good, Lawful Tendencies
Carceri -- Evil, Chaotic Tendencies
Elysium -- Neutral Good
Gehenna -- Evil, Lawful Tendencies
The Gray Waste -- Neutral Evil
Limbo -- Chaotic Neutral
Mechanus -- Lawful Neutral
Mount Celestia -- Lawful Good
The Outlands -- True Neutral
Pandemonium -- Chaotic, Evil Tendencies
Ysgard -- Chaotic, Good Tendencies
The Inner Planes
What "Planescape" could be
AD&D and the Religious Right
Li Po's Hermitage (character generators, more)
Background by Ed

More good

Less extreme

More law
Ed's character generators:


New visitors to
reset Jan. 30, 2005:

Ed's home page

Ed says, "This world would be a sorry place if people like me who call ourselves Christians didn't try to act as good as other good people ."