Li Po's Guide to the Beastlands
Living the Good, Chaotic-Tending Alignment

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

In wilderness is preservation of the world.

        -- Thoreau

When Gary Gygax conceived the scheme of the outer planes for the "AD&D" game, he chose names from the various peoples' visions of the afterlife. He took the American Indian term "Happy Hunting Grounds" for the realm where Good was predominant and there was a tendency toward Chaos over Law.

The choice was excellent. As the realms have been developed, they have come to be peopled by intelligent animals. It is a happy, natural world without the laws of civilization or the reflective thought of Law. Every kind of natural environment is here, only more splendid. This is the only place in the multiverse where visions of natural harmony and "noble savagery" are true -- and this is its magic.

"The Perfect Wilderness", "The Beastlands" or "the Happy Hunting Grounds" are universes filled with sentient speaking (and often spellcasting) animals in all their beautiful diversity. There are no tame animals here, and any animal brought here from another plane immediately becomes feral, though not necessarily unfriendly. All kinds of terrain are here. This is a realm of primitive, feral beauty.

Many of the animals are the spirits of the blessed dead who were of good, non-lawful alignment and who preferred to live simply and without much reflection. Others are animals of the plane's ecosystem. What little "civilization" is here resembles small frontier communities.

Regardless of their origin, most of the animals are profoundly wise and holy, and serve as exemplars of individual virtues, as in the medieval bestiaries. All of them can talk, though most prefer not to. Those that do will question the party about how they have treated animals, and about goodness. Evil visitors get hunted, while good visitors are usually left alone, but don't get over-confident. The Lords of each kind of animal live here, knowing all that concerns the species. Warden animals serve them and supervise each species in turn. (Natural ecosystems, dominated by good animals, may be found on all the upper planes.) All ranger skills, and all skills and proficiencies related to animals or to the wilderness, get a bonus of 10%. Great beings whose faces appear in the clouds can answer almost any question. (Summon them with "weather summoning".) Distances here are enormous.

A few humans live here -- noble savages or happy hippy-types. Most of the area is beautiful wilderness. Centaur heaven is here, though there are relatively few other great spiritual powers. There are a few good-aligned lycanthropes, but there are no monsters with magical powers here. The good folk here generally consider that ends justify means. This is a common location for the headquarters of good sects devoted to animals, nature, or the wilderness. Visitors will acquire at least one physical feature of the animals they most resemble; for chaotics this happens almost at once, and even for lawfuls it will happen within a week. These physical chages wil persist after for the duration of time spent on the Beastlands. Visitors may discover that their deeds, good and bad, are widely known -- especially how they have treated animals. All good proxies and departed souls on these planes exist simultaneously on all three. The good creatures living on these planes never make war on one another.

The "Signers" philosophic sect, which holds that the universe is their dream, has its headquarters here. ("You're all just figments of my imagination.") Primitives will enjoy hunting the animals for sport, which the animals don't mind. This is the only place in the multiverse where fantasies about noble primitives and nature's harmony are really true. The Verdant Guild ("Wylders") are the local protect-the-environment movement, and oppose all encroachment of civilization.

Mottos include those attributed to noble First Americans of our own world. Public portals between layers and to remote planes are found in forest glades, guarded by fierce, intelligent animals who will question visitors.

Because this is a plane where goodness is very strong, you will find genuine unselfish love from many (probably most) of the locals. The spiritual beings of the Beastlands are good company and have a sense of humor. People and intelligent animals will go out of their way to help you in the Beastlands. Good characters who earn acceptance from the animals as permanent residents of the Beastlands have "won the game", and may reappear only briefly as glorified saints.

The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist inthe dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family.

      -- Attributed to Chief Seattle

Krigala is a noonday universe. The plants here grow to enormous sizes. The ratatosk squirrel-folk inhabit branches of Yggdrasil that reach to here. The Forbidden Plateau is a basalt pillar topped with a realm of dinosaurs and green- furred beastfolk. Light-green pools extending into the astral appear and shine at random points in the forests, and can be moved freely among the trees. Portals to the Outlands, Elysium or Arboria are often hollow trees. Signpost is a frontier-style camp for the Signers' faction. Skerrit's Glade is the home of centaurs, and those who stay here for a day got +1 on wisdom as long as they stay on the Beastlands. Standing Stones is the home of a powerful antlered tiefling who will turn sport hunters into the hunted. Triberove is a huge travelling town of wemics who will welcome most decent creatures to travel with them. Brux is the universe with two rising-setting suns. There are gates to the Demiplane of Shadow, and there are rumors that Brux is the repository of items that were safely locked away but vanished anyway. Al Karak Elam-Ihankhal is the realm of the xenophobic flying elves. The Cat Lord's Prowl is cat terrain, and visitors will usually be eaten at once. Anything that any cat knows, the Cat Lord knows. Ursis is home to the good bear people, and those infected with lycanthropy and not yet of evil alignment can be cured here. Karasuthra is a nighttime universe lit by randomly-wandering stars. Burrowing and noctural animals thrive here. The Owl Lord's Soar is here, and as with most other realms of animal lords, a visitor with nothing to offer the Owl Lord will be ignored or eaten. The Labyrinth of Fiery Doom is a portion of Baator that switched over when a fiend discovered how to love. Stormhold is a realm of perpetual thunderstorms, where the good Storm Giant King's palace glows with the color of a cloud's silver lining. A magical pool, infinite to those within, gives healing, restoration, and regeneration to any whom the storm giants wish.

It seems most likely that any locale will actually have a day-night cycle, which is important for any ecology. Perhaps there are subtle changes in the rules ("different layers") depending on the time of day, or the actual divisions are allegorical. Alternatively, every plant and animal may exist simultaneously on all three layers and thus experience all phases of its day-night cycle.

Spell alterations in the Beastlands: Air, wind, and weather spells fail. This includes "fly" and "feather fall". Conjurations and summonings bring only the local animals, which are not under control. In fact, no spell that controls animals will work here. Divinations cannot contact supernatural or extraplanar beings. Spells directed against "normal animals" fail. Harmful necromancy is cast at one level lower. Fire spells are enhanced on the noonday layer and diminished on the night layer. Other elemental spells may be enhanced or weakened by the terrain. Spell keys might be available to reach off-plane sources of information, but other uses seem improbable.

Wizardly spell keys are natural objects. "Elemental aura" requires stones and pebbles. Alterations require blown leaves. Conjuration-Summonings require a bit of food that the animal will like. Divinations are in silver ore. Enchantments and charms require quartz crystals. "Whispering wind" requires a feather. Cloud-evocations require a treebranch struck by lightning. Necromancy requires a bone. Power keys are rare and appropriate to the sect; one uses a snow-globe.

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 emerald. Ethereal curtains might be emerald green.
  • The dead are immune to electricity and poison, have cold resistance 20 and fire resistance 20, and as an additional ability have fast healing.
  • The plane is "mildly good-aligned". Evil creatures have -2 on charisma checks.
  • I respectfully suggest that the Beastlands be regarded as chaotic-tending and thoroughly good. These effects are additive

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

    The Fourth Edition has not yet developed a place of noble animals and noble savages. It could be a place for questing by skill check and puzzle-solving, or to protect fron ancient evils. 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 Beastlands are essentially a world where like-minded spirits meet. It looks and works like our own world, except that it is filled with people and animals living good lives without much civilization. NPC attitudes are typically "helpful" so long as visitors give no sign of intending harm to nature or the animals. If there is a spiritual race native to the Beastlands, 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 good, chaotic-tending divine spellcaster is sponsored (and monitored) by a prayer fellowship with similar interests based on the Beastlands. 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 Beastlands would lose one spell on Elysium or Arborea, six spells in Gehenna or Acheron, and seven spells in Baator. Moving to the Outlands loses three spells.

    A world where savages are really noble and animals are actually all wise and good would be as marvellous and fantastic as any rules-intensive world ever visited by adventurers.

Referees might not want players to realize that they have entered the Happy Hunting Grounds.

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their views, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you cross over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

      -- Chief Tecumseh

John-Jacques Rousseau popularized ideas about "noble savages" that still influence special-interest politics.

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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