The Outlands are known to the Clueless as the “Plane of Concordant Opposition.” (Fact is, they get most of the planar names wrong, which is a sure way to mark a prime.) Just one of many Outer Planes, the Outlands are still a very unique place. For starters, it’s got entrances to every other Outer Plane, making it a central clearing-house for all sorts of planar beings. And then, of course, there’s the spire. A body’d have to be blind to miss that – it rises up out of the middle of the Outlands, infinitely tall, with the city of Sigil hovering on top.
The spire’s a good example of how primes worry too much. They always want to know how something that’s infinitely tall can have something else on top of it. But that kind of thinking just drives a berk barmy. In the planes, things are the way they are, and it’s best just to leave it at that.
Another problem is that primes figure their out-of-touch universe is the centre of everything. When they found the Outlands – a plane connected to all other Outer Planes – they had to cobble up a quick reason why it couldn’t be the centre of the multiverse. So they called it the “Plane of Concordant Opposition,” the idea being that the Outlands are opposed to the other planes.
Nothing is further from the truth, berk. The Outlands (sometimes just called the Land) are at the centre of all things, with gates leading to the other planes. A traveller headed for one of those planes just has to use the right gate. Course, creatures from the other side can come through the gates, too, so a berk’s got to watch his step.
The gates see a lot of use in both directions, so folks figured it’d be a good idea to build towns around each one. These settlements are known as gate-towns. Funny thing about gate-towns, though – they reflect the mood of whatever plane their gate leads to. For example, the poor sods in Bedlam are half-barmy (some would say more than half) just from living next to the Gate to Pandemonium. Even the town itself can take on the mood of a plane, buildings and all.
Fact is, if the mindset of a town gets too morally and ethically aligned to its plane, it’ll get sucked through the gate. The whole burg just disappears from the Outlands and moves to the other plane. If the town of Excelsior gets too good and too lawful, for example, then it’ll join the choir on Mount Celestia.
What happens next depends on the town. For some places, another copy just pops right up out of nowhere, taking the place of the original. Other towns, though, won’t be copied. They’ll have to be rebuilt by any cutters willing to lift a hammer. In any case, when a town’s sucked away, the gate stays. Course it might be a bit worse for the wear, but folks can’t really say. Even a planar doesn’t know the dark about everything.
But remember, berk – the gates work both ways. If a town can go through, it can come back out. Parts of the Outer Planes that don’t measure up morally and ethically with the rest of their plane can break off and slide into the Outlands. For example, if a paladin built his home on evil Baator, it just wouldn’t work. Sooner or later, his place would drift back to the Land (and good riddance, the baatezu would say). This usually only happens to spots on the upper levels of the plane – he stuff farther down is pretty well anchored. And given the endless nature of planes, such swapping back and forth is minor.
Besides the gate-towns, the Outlands have a good number of other spots a traveller should know about. Some are just small villages, but some are the realms of powers who like the unaligned, free-wheeling nature of the Land. Course, a truly evil power setting up shop in the Outlands suffers the same problem as the gate-towns. That is, Loki can create a citadel there and fill it with malicious berks, only to have it eventually slip into his native plane. This means that most of the powers of the Outlands are neutral, or, at least, amoral – beyond the ethical and moral definitions of most planars.
Moving through the Outlands
Between the gate-towns and other populated areas, the bulk of the Outlands is pretty much open, empty space. Here and there, a traveller’ll run into some sharp-toothed mountains, rolling hills, windswept badlands, and forests of all kinds of vegetation. But these places’ve turned there backs on the “normal” rules for topography, geography and climate. Also, with chunks of the Land always breaking off or adding on, long-term structures like roads usually don’t last too long. A body has to make it on his own.
But there’s another way for folks who don’t fell like walking: taking a gate from Sigil. The city’s got a number of magical portals that lead to the gate-towns and some even go farther, right into the Outer Planes. These gates are real handy, but they tend to move around. Smart cutters’ll find themselves a local guide. Those who do cross the Land on foot often complain that it drives ‘em barmy. Journeys take a random amount of time – as Outlanders say, “It takes as long as it takes, no more or less.” A body can walk from Rigus to Ribcage in a few days, only to find the return trip takes several weeks.
The Clueless usually think that riding a horse’ll make a trip faster. Not so. It’ll take the same amount of time, no matter how a body goes. Then again, sods who get lost in the Outlands might appreciate a horse – to eat. (Some planars do talk of a growing herd of camels, and another of buffalo, that’ve been brought into the Land and left to go feral.
Magic in the Outlands
It’s happened plenty of time: A prime makes it to the Outlands, gets herself into all sorts of trouble, and whips up a powerful spell or two to save her skin. Trouble is, if she’s not standing in the right place or doesn’t have the right key, the spell’s likely to fizzle. The dead-book’s full of the Clueless who didn’t know the dark of how magic works in the Land.
Here, the strength of magic depends on how far a body is from the spire – the centre of the plane. (Any berk who still has to ask how an infinite plane can have a centre is in the wrong universe.) The direction away from the spire is generally known as ringward or outward (towards the ring of the Outer Planes), while the direction toward the spire is called spireward or inward.
The Outlands are divided into concentric circles, though the borders of the circles aren’t marked in any way. As a body crosses these borders, magical abilities drop away. In the farthest circle ringward, all magic works normally (as normal as it ever does in the Land). But as a body moves closer to the spire, more spells are locked out, until at the spire itself no magic works at all (except for Sigil, of course).
These circles are known as rings or layers, depending on where a body’s from. Natives of Sigil call them rings, and count outward from the spire to the rim. Bashers from the Outer Planes tend to think in layers, and so that’s why they call them circles, counting inward from the rim to the spire.
The table below sums up how magic is affected on each ring and layer. It’s not just spells, berk – all spell-like abilities get knocked out, too. For example, a beholder’s disintegrating eye is treated as a wizard’s disintegrate spell, which is sixth-level. Neither’ll work within the fifth ring or fifth layer. These restrictions apply to magic for both wizards and priests.
All of the gate-towns sit in the outermost ring/layer, where magic isn’t affected (except by the normal restrictions of the Outlands). Most of the other important sites are found in the sixth, seventh or eighth ring outward, since that’s where the powers of the plane usually set up shop. Here’s why: too far from the spire, their domains could slip into another Outer Plane; too close, and they couldn’t grant their worshippers all the magic they’d like.
There’s one other thing that’s pretty important about the rings and layers – they move. The sodding borders slide back and forth across the Land, so locations can fall into a range of different rings. A patch of ground’ll be in the sixth ring one day and in the fifth the next. ‘Course, a piece of land almost never moves more than one ring or so from its original spot. Bigger changes usually take place only if a nearby gate-town goes tumbling off into an Outer Plane.
Since the borders between the rings aren’t marked, most berks aren’t sure of where they are until they try to cast a spell and it fails. If a cutter’s lucky enough to have a mimir, it’ll tell her what ring or layer she’s standing in, but it won’t give the location of the next nearest ring or layer.
Travel between rings or layers takes just as long as trips between towns. From the ninth ring, a body’d go from three to eighteen days to reach the eighth ring, and then another three to eighteen days to reach the seventh ring. Just wandering around the Outlands crossing rings can really eat up a cutters time.
Travel time between rings is separate from travel time between specific locations. That is, a body going from Curst to the Palace of Judgment takes the normal amount of time, no matter how many rings she crosses along the way.
The spire’s another story – it’s infinite, so it’s not treated as a specific location. A body walking from Curst to the base of the spire’d have to cross a number of rings to do it, at three to eighteen days each.
Even if a body’s standing in the right ring or layer, she still might find that some of her spells don’t work. That’s just the way it is on the planes. But don’t give up yet, berk – a spell key might set things right.
A spell key is a special item, method, or even another spell that’ll allow a particular spell to be cast. Without the right key, a spell could putter out halfway through or not even work at all. They only work for wizard spells, though (priest spells use the mysterious power keys).
Cutters have to tumble to the nature of spell keys on their own. A lot of that stuff is dark to most folks. But the kinds of spells that need keys are pretty well known:
- Divination spells that contact powers and creatures in the Inner Planes.
- Elemental conjurations that summon creatures or effects from the Inner Planes.
- Ethereal-based spells that need access to the Ethereal plane.
- Energy Plane spells that need access to the Negative or Positive Energy Planes.
- Shadow magic spells that need access to the Demiplane of Shadow.
- Spells of any type that conjure, contact, or tap energies from the Inner Planes, the Ethereal Plane, or any of the Demiplanes. These spells (like dismissal or dramij’s instant summons) might work just fine in the Outlands, but if a body wants to use them to reach one of those other planes, it’ll take a spell key.
By the way, any berk who figures using psionic abilities to duplicate these spells or reach the Inner Planes, Ethereal Plane, or the Demiplanes is out of luck.
Power keys are clerical in nature. Like spell keys, they’re used to boost certain spells on a particular plane. ‘Course, as ther aren’t a lot of powers or pantheons in the Outlands (not as many as some other planes, anyway), there aren’t many power keys, either.
Fact is, the current chant says the Land’s got no power keys at all. But cutters keep looking all the same. Here’s the dark of it though: If there were any power keys, they’d have to be created by a very high up blood – in other words the DM.