Li Po's Guide to Limbo
Living the Chaotic Neutral Alignment

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.
        -- Proverbs 26:4-5

Everything you can imagine is real.

        -- Pablo Picasso

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

Gary Gygax and his friends chose the theme of Law vs. Chaos as the first metaphysic for their "D&D" role-playing universe. The introduction of the "chaotic, but very good" djinni, and the "evil, but very lawful" mind-flayers in the early books began the process in which imaginary worlds finally took on the rich variety of our own spiritual tendencies.

The Outer Planes are worlds in which living adventurers mingle with spiritual beings (including the dead) who have chosen various attitudes. The Planes of Chaos are dimensions of unreason, unpredictability, anarchy, and rugged individualism.

Where Good is equally strong, Gary Gygax described a "beautific" dimension, as opposed to the "saintly" virutes of Lawful Good. Once called "Mount Olympus", the extreme of Chaotic Good is now called Arborea, or (my choice), "Woodstock". It's an ideal that can exist only in the imagination.

The other Planes of Chaos have also been explored.

Even if you profess chaotic alignment, please respect TSR's copyrights. To undermine the rights of individual creative artists would make our world a far duller place.

Gary Gygax chose the term "Limbo" for the dimension of untainted Chaos. Again, the choice was based on the classics.

In some Christian eschatologies, "Limbo" is the home of those who died without either the guilt of grave sin or the saving knowledge of Christ. It is a realm of complete natural happiness but without the vision of God. Some say that Christ brought its inhabitants, or some of them, to God at the time of his resurrection. The belief has given rise to the expression "in Limbo", implying an uncertain, far-removed destiny.

In "Paradise Lost", John Milton describes Chaos very much as the later AD&D writers would do -- a soup giving rise to various substances. Satan traverses it, and enters into an agreement with its personification ("the anarch Chaos", along with Orcus, Demogorgon and others) to spoil the newly-created Lawful sphere of the solar system. Approaching the earth, Satan discovers a realm that will become the "Limbo of Vanity". Milton was a radical Protestant who described this as the afterlife for all those who placed their trust in vain things -- the trappings of organized religion that he regarded as superstitious.

Soup or superstition, the AD&D Limbo is the spiritual home of all rebels without causes, the domain of the sullen existentialists, the grand egomaniacs, the bombastic charlatans, and the most shiftless street losers. Don't expect to find unselfish love here. But the ordinary loves -- family, friendship, romance -- may be much as in our own world, if less organized.

Mottos include, "Revolution for the heck of it", "The only eternal truth is that there is none", and "Do your thing."

In our world, some spiritual movements emphasize each individual's special faith-path, "doing your own thing", "finding yourself", "creating your own reality", and so forth. You have probably seen instances in which this takes the place of common sense and common kindness. You have many examples for chaotic-neutral clerics in your own community. (There are plenty of lawful-neutral and true-neutral clerics, too.)

Limbo is chaos and exuberant creativity, where the terrain responds to mind, and disaster results if concentration is broken. Unmodified chaos is primordial soup, erupting from time to time into pockets of fire (hot, very hot, smoky or not), air (still, windy, hot, cold, temperate), water (boiling, icy, temperate, fresh, salty, still, turbulent), earth (rock, soil, sand), and mixtures of these (anything natural). Any "breathing" spell allows breathing of the primordial soup. Shape chaos by checking vs. intelligence. If intelligence is 1-4, you can generate 10 feet per point of flat, simple meadow or the equivalent. If intelligence is 5-10, you can generate 10 yards per point of complex terrain. If intelligence is 11-18, you can generate 100 yards per point of village or equivalent. If intelligence is above 18, you can generate 1 mile per level of complex buildings and/or terrain with animals. While concentrating, you can't cast spells, fight, or make ability checks. An anarch survives comfortably in the undifferentiated chaos, and can hold it in shape without having to really concentrate, using wisdom instead of intelligence as an attribute, and only artificial things will fade away if concentration wavers. On first entering Limbo, a chaotic character is allowed a wisdom check to test for the ability. Members of the Anarch's Guild learn to use wisdom+level as attribute, and their work doesn't fade. Even here, miniflux may sometimes cause little things to change. Check vs. wisdom or something you haven't used for a while won't be there. A magician must check vs. intelligence upon casting a spell, or get a wild magic surge instead. If on solid ground rather than in the soup, this only happens if the number rolled is "20". The locals -- both living and dead -- can mould the chaos into natural things, and build them into structures. Visitors can do the same, but must maintain concentration. Amid the chaos, there are innumerable inhabited areas, mostly different kinds of outlaw camps. There are huge vaults of seawater for storms, areas where everything catches fire, and so forth. Fireballs burn continuously for hours, while permanent magics are dispelled. Chaos elementals (1d12 hit dice) arise from the chaos and prey upon one another and upon visitors. There are realms where creatures can only speak in rhymes or stupid puns, and realms where abilities, classes, and so forth will be switched at random. There is a realm of drunkards, who can be summoned as a crowd into the prime plane to obstruct an adventurer's enemies. There is a casino where an adventurer may gamble compulsively for bits of his or her soul. There are areas where one's own equipment attacks. There are areas where casual remarks have potent effects. There are realms full of gateways, which appear as geometric solids waiting to be touched. Slaad and Githzerai have their lairs on this plane. The Githzerai are folk who took up residency here long ago, and whose lairs resemble the prime material plane. Their largest city is Shra'kt'lor, good for shopping. Their religious center is the Floating City. Slaadi prefer to inhabit unmodified chaos. These creatures seem to lack feeling, respect power, and never cooperate. Ssendam (spell its name backwards) rules a realm of utter insanity. Ygorl is lord of the Land of Lost Meanings, and visitors must be able to justify their existence in order to escape. Spawning Stone is the slaad mating center. "Pinwheel" is a 150-mile stable island, heavily forested and populated by monsters, where Yggdrasil crosses the plane. "Fennimar" is a terrain of elf anarchists, a huge and lonely forest with hermits. The weather here is extremely chaotic. Barnstable is a halfling village from the prime plane that was sucked into Limbo and is being maintained. "Mirage" is a world where all thoughts become visible. This can be embarrassing to those who harbor sexual or violent ideas. Faith communities exist here, but without hierarchy -- everyone is equal, and invited to "do his/her own thing." Somewhere is the Temple of Unfulfillable Desires. From Li Po's world, the Cynics (philosophic nihilists) have their headquarters here. So do the Mad Clerics, and the Free Spirits (sixties-types naive anarchists) The mottos of these sects are popular across the plane. The Xaositects, who love chaos, have their headquarters here. A few cults of meaninglessness are based here as well. The locals are incomprehensible. They will often know about episodes in which the party has dones things that made no sense, and they will try to persuade visiting adventurers that they belong here. Primitives will seek calm spots amidst the tumult. Public portals between the layers and to remote planes appear as gaping whirlpools in the stuff of chaos. Most of these are fairly stable. Black pools to the astral appear randomly as blobs in the chaos or elsewhere, and can be moved easily. Portals to the Outlands, Ysgard or Pandemonium are often archways in unresponsive chaos, into which the would-be traveller must leap without knowing the destination. There are probably many universes here.

Spell alterations in Limbo: All magician spells require an intelligence check. If passed, the spell succeeds. If failed, the spell fails, and a wild surge is generated on a roll of "20" on d20 on stable terrain, and always if in the soup. Keys might help prevent this. Alterations are very likely to produce oddities as cited above. Divinations require a check vs. prime requisite or the results are totally confusing. Again, keys might help make divinations clearer. Illusions have a 10% chance of becoming fully, permanently real. Spell keys might prevent this. Wild magic always produces a surge. Roll twice for level variation and use the more extreme result. Elemental spells come off normally, and have duration and area doubled; if instantaneous, they last 1d6 rounds; if single-target, they have an area 1d12 feet across.

Wizardly spell keys are constantly changing. Check vs. prime requisite to know the key of the moment, then vs. wisdom to create it from chaos.

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 jet black. Ethereal curtains might be swirling black.
  • The dead are immune to fire and cold, and as an additional ability popping in and out of chaos, gibbering and laughing.
  • The plane is "strongly chaos-aligned". Non-chaotic creatures have -2 on all intelligence, wisdom, and charisma checks.
  • I respectfully suggest that the actual effect might be

      -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 (non-lawful) are unaffected.
      Evil-based spells (non-lawful) are unaffected.
      Law-based spells simply fail.
      Chaos-based spells work as if caster were 4 levels higher.

    The Fourth Edition transformed the malleable Limbo into "the elemental chaos." There is no special ideology here, but either the realms above or the realms below might have areas where people like being rebels without causes or prefer nonsense over sense. 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 Limbo is essentially a world where like-minded spirits meet. It looks and works like our own world, except that it is molded from moment to moment by the whims of its inhabitants. NPC attitudes are typically "indifferent" and this is unlikely to vary much; perhaps there are NPC's whose attitudes are truly determined by random dice rolls. The slaadi of Limbo are a non-human (or formerly human) race devoted to promoting the community's ideals among the living by encouragement and subtlety, rather than by force. Especially figures like Ygorl and Ssendam might scheme toward the destruction of reasonable and civilized institutions. 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-neutral divine spellcaster is sponsored (and monitored) by a prayer fellowship with similar interests based on Limbo. 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 Limbo would lose one spell on Ysgard or Pandemonium, four spells on Mechanus, and six spells on Mt. Celestia or Baator. Moving to the Outlands loses two spells.

    A world where the only meaning is that there is none, and where nature itself reflects only the whims of the moment, would be as alien and unsettling as any rules-intensive world ever visited by adventurers.

Referees might not want players to realize that they have entered Limbo. Depending on the site of arrival, visitors might simply recognize a lawless world.

Fractals -- Fractals like this provided a few views for Li Po's explorations


    Pure psychic automatism, by means of which one tries to express, verbally, in writing or in any other way, the real functioning of thought. It is a dictation of thought, without the regulating intervention of reason, devoid of all aesthetic or moral considerations.

          -- Andre Breton

    Surrealist Manifesto

Charmyn's Textures [site now down] provided a few views of Limbo for Li Po's explorations

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

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