Li Po's Guide to Arcadia
Living the Lawful, Good-Tending Alignment

Respond to kindness with kindness. Respond to evil with justice.
      -- Attributed to Confucius
            "The Brass Rule"

One law for the Lion and Ox is oppression.

      -- William Blake

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

In the AD&D universe, Arcadia is the imaginary world where the dreams of moralists and social planners have come true. Here Law predominates and there is a tendency to Good.

As usual, Gary Gygax's original conception was superb. Arcadia -- actually located in the heroic society of ancient Greece -- was adopted by Renaissance poets as an imaginary land of pastoral tranquility and righteous law.

Even if we do not all profess Arcadian alignment, we must respect TSR's copyrights. It's only good laws like these that enable us all to live together, enjoying the productions of each other's hard work.

As it's been developed in the "Planescape" milieu, Arcadia is a generally happy place where everything orders itself for the common good. It is full of well-tended (or even self-maintaining) formal gardens, fields and orchards, geometric cities, and uneroded mountains. Day and night are of equal length, and there is no dawn or twilight. Even the seasons are of equal length, and change abruptly. The weather is moderate, and never inconvenient. There are well-laid-out roads that lawfuls traverse much faster than chaotics. The normal animals are robust and well-behaved, and none are wild. Social animals (dutiful dogs, benevolent bees, etc.) are especially common. Crops grow in perfect order without weeds, and farm animals line up willingly to be slaughtered for the common good. Every fruit and flower is perfect. Primitives will find realms of gentle mists, fertile plains, and friendly animals.

Arcadians -- the living and the dead -- work together for the common good, and this seems completely natural to them. They believe in promoting the public good through strict law, and are utterly intolerant of those who do not share their views. They like to talk about "peace through strength" and "building and maintaining community." They will let you know exactly what they think, and will welcome you if you think like they do. Many of them can cast "Know Alignment" at will.

Armies of soldiers who died for good causes are here. Decent folk will be invited to ride with these armies. Creatures who live on these planes might war with one another for ideological reasons. On Arcadia, a paladin's warhorse is able to speak.

Lawful-good types are safe on Arcadia. Neutral-good types are tolerated as long as they obey the laws, and chaotic-good types are asked to finish their business and leave. Lawful evil creatures are assumed to be enemy invaders, and all evil creatures are attacked at once, with no questions asked. Non-good, non-lawful types are escorted to the nearest gates. Actually, non-lawful-good types should think seriously about staying away from Arcadia altogether.

No matter what your alignment, your player characters will certainly get lectured by at least a few Arcadians. They are likely to point to ways in which your group has worked together and accomplished good things -- and if the group plays well together, the Arcadians may welcome them as potential converts.

Certain Arcadians (particularly the Harmonium) will talk with anyone about their beliefs and actions, and point out visitors' own decent tendencies, and the obvious advantages of people working together. This will make for good role-playing opportunities, as Arcadians try to persuade the party that they belong here. And perhaps they do -- or can aspire to even greater goodness.

Arcadia is a common location of the headquarters of decent sects devoted to athletics, city life, commerce, public safety and guardianship, physical strength, or war. Most sects that are preoccupied with forcing virtue on their neighbors have their headquarters here.

Here also are the spiritual homes of decent legalists who were primarily concerned with keeping their own minority groups intact, safe, happy, and well-behaved. (Sects focused on minority identity alone are usually based on Mechanus or the Outlands. Those that emphasize old minority-group hatreds usually align with Acheron or Baator despite all their protestations of moral high ground.)

How do you role-play a not-altogether-good cleric?

One of the physicians with whom I trained in residency was disowned by his parents because he refused to join the American Communist Party.

The "Harmonium" philosophic sect, which fights evil and is not noted for tolerance, has its headquarters here, in the city of Melodia. ("There are two ways of doing anything: Our way, and the wrong way.") The Harmonium's idea of fun is to listen to edifying speeches and sing hymns. Tourists are not wanted here. There is a chaotic-good team of adventurers forming an underground with alignments masked. The Harmonium has set of "training camps" to rehabilitate non-lawful good creatures. Anyone in the camps must check vs. wisdom at -4 to disobey any request of the guards; otherwise, it will seem right and reasonable to obey. Eventually, most folks come to like the camps.

Public portals between the regions and to remote planes resemble vehicles for long journeys. Clear sky-blue pools reaching into the astral appear wherever normal pools of water would be appropriate, and can be maneuvered if they connect with a river or ocean. Portals to the Outlands, the Holy Mountain or Mechanus are often arches within steel trellises.

The classic Egyptian civilization is represented by "Heliopolis". Divided among the Egyptian "gods", it mirrors an early community where people discovered good laws that led to peace and progress.

The heroic society of ancient Babylonia has its ideal form here. We know this society from Hammurabi's legal code, and in Babylonian territory, justice is harsh. No dragons are allowed in Babylonian territory, and all their special abilities fail. The culture in Babylonian territory is bronze-age, and what's available is limited accordingly.

Classical Japan, famous for its strict feudal code, is represented on Arcadia by the world of the ki-rin, rainbow-colored flying unicorns of great magical power and goodness.

Mount Clangeddin is the realm of the dwarven armies. They expect the realm to remain as perfect as they perceive themselves to be. Within the mountain is a huge realm of tunnels, including nine cities. The military brass turns a blind eye to the misdeeds of soldiers, so long as they are kept hidden. The dwarves believe that if they die while fighting outside the realm, they will be annihilated, yet they do this in the name of bravery.

Mandible is a city of humanoid ants, the formians.

Meriadar's sect headquarters is a secret, city hidden between mountains and inside a deep forest. It is a haven for humanoids trying to be good. Here strict laws control the innate tendencies to cruelty.

Azuth is a realm of wizards. Its cave-entrance is hidden by an illusion that only a wizard can penetrate. It leads to a staircase suspended in apparently infinite space glowing with shadowy light. At the bottom is the city of Mage's Rest, lit by glowing, bobbing orbs, full of ritual and mystery. Here, any wizard of any alignment can claim citizenship. Anyone casting a spell to harm another receives an immediate backlash in kind.

Spell alterations in Arcadia: All spells take twice as long to cast. Many spells fail unless they're done for the greatest real benefit of the greatest number. Conjuration-summonings done for a socially responsible purpose have the best possible result, while those for a bad purpose result in the summoned creature being uncontrolled. Divinations only work for groups of four or more folks seeking the greatest good for the greatest number of decent creatures. Enchantments and charms always allow a save, and at +4 if one is normally allowed. The locals always recognize an illusion, and everyone else checks vs. intelligence at +4 to see through it. Necromancy only works for the common good. Animated dead turn on the caster, and death magic turns back on the caster. Wild mages lose two levels, and no surge is possible. Elemental magic works at double effect for those aligned like the plane, fails for evils and chaotics, and works normally for everyone else. It seems unlikely that spell keys would be able to overcome any of these problems.

Wizardly spell keys are material from the plane, bounded by a geometric shape, and symbolic of the desired effect. Power keys are appropriate to the sect, and last for only a week.

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 saffron. Ethereal curtains might be pale yellow.
  • The dead are immune to sonic damage and acid, have cold resistance 20 and electricity resistance 20, and as an additional ability can detect chaos and/or detect good at will.
  • The plane is "mildly law-aligned". Chaotic creatures have -2 on charisma checks.
  • I respectfully suggest that Arcadia be regarded as good-tending and thoroughly lawful. These effects are additive

      -1 on all charisma checks for all evil 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 chaotic creatures
      Good-based spells (non-chaotic) work as if caster were 2 levels higher.
      Evil-based spells (non-chaotic) require a Spellcraft check (DC 15) for success.
      Law-based spells work as if caster were 4 levels higher.
      Chaos-based spells simply fail.

    The Fourth Edition has retained something of Arcadia in "Hestavar, the bright city." Those who pass through the gold and silver clouds that surround it will find the most prosperous city anywhere. Arcadia's sun still shines overhead, but now it is always noontime. The theme is "the benefits of civilization." This is home to Erathis (who is "unaligned" -- the Lawful Neutral alignment of civilization without kindness or cruelty was removed from the fourth edition because it is hard to play meaningfully.) It is also home to Pelor, patron of sunshine and kindness (formerly "neutral good") and the new patron of learning, Ioun. I'm happy that the best library in the cosmos is now in a nicer place. The kindness, courage, goodness, and religious intolerance of Arcadia survives as Eberron's "Silver Flame" ministry. 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 Arcadia is essentially a world where like-minded spirits meet. It looks and works like our world, except that the Utopian schemes actually work instead of just making things worse. NPC attitudes are typically "friendly" so long as visitors show themselves to be decent and law-abiding. If there is a spiritual race native to Arcadia, it is 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 lawful, good-tending divine spellcaster is sponsored (and monitored) by a prayer fellowship with similar interests based on Arcadia. 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 Arcadia would lose one spell on Mt. Celestia or Mechanus, six spells on Carceri or Pandemonium, and seven spells on the Abyss. Moving to the Outlands loses three spells.

    A world where utopian fantasies do not lead to disaster would be as different from our own world as any rules-intensive world ever visited by adventurers.

Referees might not want players to realize that they have entered Arcadia. Depending on the site of arrival, visitors might simply recognize the perfect realization of one of our world's dreams of an ideal state. The local clergy are good and happy people, and they will be prove to be effective leaders and proselytizers.

Arcadia invites development by the referee, as realms where people obey an internal code that maximizes the happiness of their communities. For example, there must be:

  • areas that resemble the vision of our own 1950's ideal of suburbia, all conformity, clean living, and prosperity;

  • realms of noble savages obeying righteous tribal laws, as in Rousseauean fantasy;

  • socialist states that actually work;

  • Plato's ideal republic, governed by philosopher-kings;

  • The matriarchy -- according to certain feminists, prehistoric Europe (in glaring contrast to any known human society) was governed by nature-worshiping, politically-correct women;

  • Religious Right communities without hypocrisy, stupidity, hate, or meanness.

Because this is a lawful plane, there may be some very large civilizations.

Why Arcadia?

In our world, there are many different visions of justice and righteousness. Many activists and social engineers (both "liberal" and "conservative") are charlatans and hypocrites. Many more are simply stupid or horribly misguided.

In my world and in my own community, I've seen first-hand the disastrous impacts of "liberal" communism and political correctness, the "conservative" conformity / organization man movement of the 1950's, and the various "ultraconservative spiritualities."

When zeal for virtue overrides common sense and common kindness, the result is horrible suffering. Li Po strongly prefers democracy over social planning, reason and science over dogma, and the reasonable tolerance of reasonable differences.

The true magic of Arcadia must be this: Here communities can actually live out the various beautiful moral visions of our world's ideologies. It's a wonderful place. And it's as imaginary as fire-breathing dragons.

Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia -- classic synopsis
Pleasantville gradually introduces color to black-and-white 1950's sitcoms to show chaos and personal liberty invading a naive Arcadia. The director's perspective is clearly Neutral Good.

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)

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