Li Po's Guide to Pandemonium
Living the Chaotic, Evil-Tending Alignment

This also is vanity, and a striving after wind.
        -- Ecclesiastes

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 Pandemonium, the glamour of evil takes the forms of nasty-silly "creativity" and the sheer joy of unreason. In our own world, some people think this is what they really want.

John Milton introduced the term "Pandemonium" ("all the demons") as the name for the castle built in hell by the fallen angels. Milton's Satan and his followers are extremely lawful, and conduct their first business meeting with strict protocol and political savvy (Satan uses Beelzebub to introduce his own pet idea). After Milton, "pandemonium" came to mean complete and dreadful disorder.

Pandemonium is the spiritual home of our own world's riffraff and street losers with attitudes. It is also home to the spiritual forces that would corrupt souls through the glamour of utter madness. For the locals, even the ordinary loves of our world -- family, friendship, and romance -- are muted.

For a sense of what the plane is all about, look to the extremely bizarre, moderately nasty mind-set of much of contemporary music aimed at adolescents. A favorite motto is, "The whole universe is totally insane!" Real-world mental illness is not funny, but madness is a major theme of fiction. Players and referees have more fun if experience points are awarded for role-playing the insane. Perhaps Lawful Good behavior will speed recovery and gain experience points.

Even if you profess chaotic alignment, please respect TSR's copyrights. To undermine the rights of individual creative artists would lead only to darkness and tedium.

"Pandemonium" is universes of dark, lonely, iron-clad, lawless labyrinths full of cold and howling winds. Most sounds do not carry over ten feet, but the sounds of madness, loneliness and hatred are borne by the winds throughout the planes. The winds pass through the gateways between layers. In all known regions, gravity is away from the tunnels' center. The native life is mostly cthulhoid monsters, and they are rare. Most of the inhabitants are transplanted from other planes, and almost all are dangerous lunatics. (Especially, beware of the ones that seem perfectly sane.) Don't expect warmth, love, or kindness from the locals. Upon entering, and during stressful moments when the sound of the wind is present, check vs. wisdom. After the first failure, the character is crabby and abrupt, with a penalty of 1 on wisdom and intelligence. After the second failure, the penalty no longer applies, but the character is despairing, and is always surprised in combat even if others are not, yet gets +1 on all "to hit" and "damage" dice. After the third failure, the character is hysterical for a number of minutes equal to the difference rolled, then returns to normal dice rolling but now has some behavioral aberration based on previous personal traits. Work this out with the referee. The spirits of the dead have no body heat, and are invisible to infrared vision. Evil deeds, or any use of death magic or necromancer's spells invites trouble, including personality deterioration. The Bleak Cabal nihilists have their headquarters here. Primitives will find sinners doing penance for their anti-social deeds. Public portals between the layers and to remote planes appear as rifts in the cave walls, often guarded by dread things.

How do you role-play an evil cleric?

One of the sixties "spiritual teachers", who is still much-admired in some circles, presented himself as a popularizer of Buddhism, particularly Zen.

However, he abused his family, chain-smoked, and died of alcoholism. Privately, he ridiculed what he taught in his books.

Reasonable people will differ about whether this "de-legitimizes" him.

Pandesmos is a universe of great caves (thousands of miles across, so that their walls appear to be barren plains), turbulent, decaying cities and the citadels of mad warlords. The city of Madhouse is operated as a public service by the Bleak Cabal. There's plenty of traders, but almost no craftspersons and no natural resources whatever. The River Styx plummets into an abyss here. Those who drink from the river lose all sense of purpose in life. Winter's Hall is an arctic mead-hall hideout maintained by the banished Norse character Loki, guarded by frost giants and white winter wolves. Olive-drab pools to the astral appear at random in the riverbank slime, and can be moved freely. Portals to the Outlands, Limbo or the Abyss are often flat squares drawn on the walls of the caverns. This is a common location for cults of darkness, wind, madness, and hate.

Cocytus is a universe of extreme noise, where the sounds of madness and lamentation fill the air. This causes permanent deafness plus insanity unless protective measures (earplugs, "silence", mind blank) are taken. Its tunnels are artificial, but no one knows who or what carved them. This is a common location for the headquarters of cults devoted to madness and weird mental states. "Howler's Crag" is a mountain. An inn lies at its base. Its peak dances with faerie fire, and at the top, anyone can shout a message to anyone else in the multiverse, and it will be heard by that one recipient. Sometimes the message goes to the wrong person. "The Harmonica" is a huge, windswept spherical hollow, miles across, with towers rising from its wall toward its center. No one knows which one actually reaches the center, but rumor has it that any party climbing this tower will receive a "wish" (or perhaps something nasty, instead.) Bugbear heaven is here. Skulls around the bugbear king's throne whisper of their old lives as the wind blows through them.

Phlegethon is a universe of darkness, where all the walls are black and slimy, and all light sources are greatly dimmed. Small black fires burn here, and they produce little heat. In some areas, the gravity is all in one direction, and here dripping water produces stalactites and stalagmites. This is a common location for the headquarters of weird sects devoted to darkness. The town of Windglum is unfriendly and unplanned, filled with exiles. The Court of the Bad Fairies is here, dominated by an evil artifact. Visitors will probably be charmed into perpetual slavery or used in some foul magical experiment. There is a monster who, in exchange for all your food, will give you a one-way trip to your selected location in Agathion via her intestinal tract.

Agathion is a prison universe of solid rock with only spherical bubbles, and no tunnels. Undesirables are kept imprisoned here, which is good. There are probably many more layers.

Spell alterations in Pandemonium: Alteration spells always produce a result that is a little bit nasty. "Find familiar", "Limited wish", and "Wish" don't work. Divinations require a secret Wisdom check to avoid wrong information; perhaps a spell key can be discovered to prevent this. Necromancy that produces life ("Clone", "Reincarnation") requires an intelligence check. Roll twice for wild magic, and take the more extreme result. All fire-based spells fail, and no spell keys are available to produce fire effects. Clouds of any kind dissipate immediately. Referees must judge the effects of sound-based magic. Wizards using material components must check vs. dexterity or the spell fails. It seems unlikely that any magic will control the winds. Perhaps any magic that affects the mind (even "Remove Fear") would require a check, with failure causing another step toward insanity.

Wizardly spell keys are musical instruments or noisemakers, made from the rock of the plane.

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 magenta. Ethereal curtains might be crimson.
  • The dead are immune to electricity and sonic damage.
  • The plane is "mildly chaos-aligned". Lawful creatures have -2 on charisma checks.
  • I respectfully suggest that Pandemonium be regarded evil-tending and thoroughly chaotic. These effects are additive

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

    The Fourth Edition retains Pandemonium as an astral realm behind "roiling magenta purple clouds". The Bleak Cabal (with its "insane masters" but without its philosophy being explicated) has moved here, as have the frost giants formerly located in the abyss. The prison realm of Agathion is still here as well. 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 Pandemonium is essentially a world where like-minded spirits meet. It looks and works like our own world, except that noise and wind mirroring the insanity of the locals. NPC attitudes are typically "unfriendly", and may respond best if visitors seem to share their craziness. If there is a spiritual race native to Pandemonium, 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 evil-tending chaotic divine spellcaster is sponsored (and monitored) by a prayer fellowship with similar interests based on Pandemonium. 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 Pandemonium would lose one spell on Limbo or in the Abyss, six spells on Arcadia or Bytopia, and seven spells on Mt. Celstia. Moving to the Outlands loses three spells.

    A world where the locals glory in sheer madness would be as wild and disturbing as any rules-intensive world ever visited by adventurers.

Referees might not want players to realize that they have entered Pandemonium. Depending on the site of arrival, visitors might simply recognize a bunch of ordinary, dimwitted criminals. Some of the clergy will probably talk about madness and unreason as the essentials of spirituality.

The Plane of Hell -- full of abusive egomaniacs. "With a feeling of sick familiarity, I recognized here my own thinking."
Near Death Experiences -- including accounts of hell.
Hell's Dominion -- a near-death experience

Background from InfiniteFish -- thanks!

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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