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

Exuberance is beauty. -- Blake

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

The rowdy Vikings and their likable gods are a fine metaphor for those who have chosen this outlook on life. This is the spiritual home of anarchists and rowdies who believed they were acting to promote the happiness of others.

A favorite motto is, "Live Free or Die". Perhaps more AD&D player characters are aligned to Ysgard than any other outer plane. The locals -- living and dead -- will point out chaotic behavior and good tendencies by the adventuring party, and try to persuade them that Ysgard is their true spiritual home. Settlements are temorary, and anarchy and government by warlords is the rule here, though they are more benevolent than their counterparts in our world. Genuine, unselfish love will occasionally be found here, and the ordinary loves -- family, friendship, romance -- are more intense than in our own world. A resident of Ysgard will probably to treat you as a friend until you show that you are not.

Even if you are a joyful anarchist, please don't loot TSR's copyrights. They're the people that bring us all the good fun.

Ysgard is universes of earthbergs, which constantly pitch and shift. Strange ships voyage between the bergs. Earthquakes are everyday hazards here. Even the good creatures who live here may make war on one another, often for no good reason. There is even less evidence of civlization here than on Arborea or the Beastlands. There are many opportunities for adventurers here, and many authorities say that more AD&D player characters end up here than anywhere else. The locals like to party, and often brawl. When player characters visit, the locals will know -- and remind them about -- episodes in which they've been rowdy for the sheer fun of it. They'll try to persuade them that Ysgard is their true spiritual home. There are numerous armies and men in uniform, but none of the uniforms match. Much of the terrain has a Scandinavian motif. Primitives will find a world filled with wonderful animals. The "Takers" philosophic sect, which emphasizes individual initiative and achievement, has its headquarters here. Public portals between the layers and to remote planes appear as cracks, crevasses, and so forth. The first layer is home to the Norse culture, and elves and giants of all kinds. The River Jordan breaks up into myriads of luminescent lakes here. "Alfheim", a sub-arctic Elf territory, is governed by the sect dedicated to the Norse character "Frey". Elves glow with a "light" spell effect here, and often charm non-elf visitors into service. It gets cold here in the winter, and the whole land hibernates. During summer, this is a great place to buy weapons and armor. Visit "Alfheim" clean-shaven. A pacifist Valkyrie is a hermitess here. Asgard, the Norse Viking heaven, is connected to prime worlds by the anti-magical rainbow bridge. The World Ash has its apex here. Apples of longevity can be stolen in Asgard. No healing magic works in Asgard, but residents all have successful "resurrection" (no point loss) before dinnertime. Even visitors who die heroically have automatically-successful "resurrection" spells, up the to limit of original constitution. "Valhalla", the hall of dead heroes, is most famous. No magic works on the rainbow bridge, but those who have supported a Norse-style ministry (and only those who have done so) can walk on it, and reach any destination in 1d6 hours on any world where such a ministry is supported. Himinborg is the town of "Heimdall's" sect, dedicated to watchful preparedness. "Vidar"'s quiet realm is populated only by huge animals. "Vanaheim" borders on Asgard, and is ruled by the Vanir sects. Noatun is a ship-building town run by the Njord Vanir sect, while Uller's folk craft bows of yew. As in Asgard, the fallen are raised each day. Large areas are controlled by chaotic evil giants. In one anomalous region (Jotunheim) of Viking Heaven, the frost giants have a heaven. Here is Mimir's well, where a drink gives 1d4 points of wisdom permanently, once in a lifetime. Cat Heaven, or "Merratet", is also located here. There's a city of werepanthers. Visitors become prey to nightmares of being stalked and pounced upon. The Lammasu maintain a hospital for wounded adventurers, and lay the lawful-good advice on heavy. Expect this area to shift to another plane soon. Brass Dragon Heaven is a dangerous place to visit. "Netaph" is an Egyptian province dominated by the war-cult of "Anhur", on the same earthberg with Cat Heaven. There are many birds of prey here, and the warriors of this realm make war against the evil residents of the Lower Planes. "Gates of the Moon" is a dreamy realm governed by lunar cultists. The Lillendi snake-folk stand guard here, and visitors can find the Infinite Staircase, beyond the Gates of the Moon, which leads to all cities that have ever or will ever exist. Construction crews are always heard, never seen, and once in a lifetime, a traveller can reach his or her heart's desire on the staircase. Skeinheim is the town of the Givers, who strive to outdo one another in poverty and generosity, yet always seem to have enough. If they ask, you will find yourself forced to do some favor to them. Between Asgard and Vanaheim is the town of Steadfast, a gathering-town for exiles and misfits, with no government and no willingness to be governed. Forest green pools to the astral appear at random and can be freely moved by viewers. Portals to the Outlands, Arboria or Limbo are often valleys with overhanging foliage. Muspelheim is a universe where the earthbergs are reversed, flaming side up. It is the heaven of fire giants, and lawful evil predominates throughout this inverted territory. A huge forge provides metal and instruments for all kinds of giants, and the town of "Njakala" exports exotic jewelry. Normal creatures take from 1 to 7 d6 of damage per round of exposure to the fire, depending on its color. Any spell that creates water acts as a combination "fireball" and "shout" spell. Nidavellir ("Dark Home") is a universe of labyrinthine, luminescent caves. Probably these are the narrow spaces between earthbergs. These interconnect many places and times, typically emerging in ruins. The Norse cult of "Hodur", the blind smith, is headquartered here. Many artists live and work here. Norse-style dwarves control much of the territory here, and they are allowed to be wizards. The domain of the good dark elves is here, too. It is all silvery light, glitz, costume jewelry, and cheap decoration, without substance. Everyone visiting here can sing well, and a bard has a bonus of three levels on all abilities except combat and spells. Yggwyrd is the city in which any dark elf can talk to any ancestor's spirit. Nidavellir is a common location for the headquarters of sects devoted to wine or partying. Elves and dwarves make war on one another for some reason. Eatan is a universe without solid stars or planets. Instead, it is filled with huge water blobs. The background is lit by "continual light". Those returning home from this plane may find themselves in their own past or future. There are probably many more layers.

Spell alterations in Ysgard: Alterations that would help a warrior work fine. Those that warp space must be keyed. Those that deceive can fail at the worst time unless keyed. Those that enhance memory or other magics work only for those with Odin's approval. Protective alterations only work if there is a rainbow visible, or perhaps a special key is used. No weather-spell works, and they cannot be keyed. Conjuration-summoning always bring the spirits of warriors. Divination spells are at double range and duration, but can only target one creature at a time. Necromantic spells must be brought at one level higher (i.e., "Spectral Hand" is third- level). Wild magic requires two rolls, as on Limbo; in choosing a surge, take the one most like the spirit of the terrain. Weather magic fails even with keys. Other elemental spells require keys, except that fire spells work normally in Muspelheim, and light-based spells work well in Vanaheim.

Wizardly spell keys are runes, carved on the material components (if any), or spoken (if no material components). A kenning may also be required.

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 indigo. Ethereal curtains might be purple.
  • The dead are immune to fire and acid, and as an additional ability rapid healing and automatic resurrection if killed in battle, like other visitors to the plane.
  • The plane is "mildly chaos-aligned". Lawful creatures have -2 on charisma checks.
  • I respectfully suggest that Ysgard be regarded as good-tending and thoroughly chaotic. These effects are additive

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

    The Fourth Edition has not yet developed a "Norse Mythology" heaven. 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 Ysgard is essentially a world where like-minded spirits meet. It looks and works like our own world, except that it is far rowdier and more boistrous and more purposeless, and you are invited to join in the fun. NPC attitudes are typically "friendly" to visitors who are not openly hostile or disapproving of rowdiness. If there is a spiritual race native to Ysgard, 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 chaotic, good-tending divine spellcaster is sponsored (and monitored) by a prayer fellowship with similar interests based on Ysgard. 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 Ysgard would lose one spell on Arborea or Limbo, six spells on Acheron or Gehenna, and seven spells on Baator. Moving to the Outlands loses three spells.

    A world where happy anarchy actually works would be as strange and wild as any rules-intensive world ever visited by adventurers.

Referees might not want players to realize that they have entered Gladsheim and its environs. Depending on the site of arrival, visitors might simply recognize a world of fun-loving, rowdy primitives. Expect to hear a lot from the clergy about promoting freedom for yourself and for others.

To think about:

  • The Vikings of our world lived in a remote, inhospitable climate. During the winters, there was nothing to do. They would loot their neighbors in more temperate climates. Ultimately, they became the greatest explorers of their time, and finally the English ruling family ("Norman"="Norse Men"). In lawless times, can this be a decent way to live?
  • The Viking "gods" have as their main enemies the personifications of cold and volcanic activity, the great perils their people faced in Scandanavia and Iceland. According to their legends, these forces would defeat the current gods, and ultimate victory would go to the kinder, gentle gods (Vidar, Baldur, Hodur). Does this reflect the ancient Northern European theme of tragic dignity affirmed in lonely defeat? Or is this perhaps an allegory reflecting the early Christian evangelization?
  • The Dark Elves of Ysgard are pariahs of their race, exiled for being morally better. Have you ever been rejected and lonely just for being good? It happens often in our world.

Teutonic Pantheon

Final Note

Gamers for Christ -- news group

Unity of the Rings -- comic book art

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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