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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

AS ABOVE... SO BELOW (PREAMBLE)

I've been working on a pretty big series and I just want everyone to be on the same page before it starts. So I want to lay down some knowns so that light readers don't think I'm pulling this shit out of my ass. So I want to reiterate E. Gary Gygax's DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS view on the planes which is well known but has been abandoned by the official owners of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS for their own versions of things that completely and honestly, I don't understand.

Gary worked with the idea of multiverses where each D&D campaign, that you the users played at home, was in its own universe.

For me, I have played in many standardized and unique universes by others and had several universes of my own with their own unique themes. The one that I usually work with on this blog I dubbed "The Swordlands" which is based on my oldest fantasy game and story ideas. As you have seen on this blog so far, my fantasy campaign has been well loaded with "new shit" for the longest time. My first "Monster Manual" was created in 1981 and within there was a floating, bodiless, and bulbous headed race that all wear eyepatches. (COMING SOON..GAHH!!!) That aside, this new series of articles AS ABOVE... SO BELOW will deal with the planes. Those dimensions that surround and influence the universes. 

Wait, Gene, my head just exploded!

I know. It works best if you just don't think of planes as walking through a "mall" and seeing different "shops" but rather the planes are like a budget of conceptual needs that all the infinite universes require to make it work. 

Gene, uh, exploding head...?

Alright, don't think about it. That is the best way to do it. If there is evil in the world there has to be some kind of unlimited evil source that comes from beyond. And to counter that (hopefully that is where you come in) within fantasy and reality, comes the unlimited potential for good. Gary Gygax alternatively described this as "weal" to drive home the aesthetic of the concept as welfare related and helpers of dynamic nature not do-nothings who wait for help. 

So to make YOU the player as the "good guys", the (sole?) creator of D&D, Gary Gygax, a devout Christian, wanted to point out fantastic evil was all over the place and was the problem for those of a heroic nature. Of course, that didn't stop those looking for attention to make accusations of something weird going on in Gary's codification of all the "bad guys". Some even suggesting it was the basis of a religious cult. This is totally mentally deficient thinking. Nobody wants to play a game called DUNGEONS OF CANDYLAND. Evil is needed for heroic adventures.

That said there is absolutely no danger in a kid seeing a game designed for adults that suggests there are forces of evil in the real world. If you disagree then I really don't know what to say except look elsewhere. 

Ah!! Its the Devil!

Yes, the concept is that beings that exist on the planes are manifestations of forces whether that be an implaccable natural force or a pervasive idea that drives the minds of people. 

Lets go to the visual aids for DMs. 

Here is the alignment "graph" included in the 1978 Players Handbook but it has been redone and colorized by me:

The color coding comes from E. Gary Gygax's DRAGON MAGAZINE article that appeared issue #73 (MAY 1983) which I've made a color reference for:

I am not reprinting the wheel of the Outer Planes here as everyone can just pop open their Handbooks and look at it but in that same issue Gary had said that he was not satisfied with what was featured in the PLAYERS HANDBOOK regarding the "torus" shape of the Inner Planes. With input from Steve Marsh (creator of many monsters in the MONSTER MANUAL), Gary devised a cube setup and that version, which seems to have been totally forgotten in all D&D post Gygax, so with total neglect in mind, I've completely cleaned it up for easier use (Keep in mind this is unrelated to the "Outer" colors shown above):


Alright, so this cube had a random chart that went like this:

THE INNER PLANES        

Concordant Opposition Ochre    

1 Prime Material Turquoise    

Elemental Planes:
2 Air     Blue    
3 Earth Brown    
4 Fire     Red    
5 Water Green    

Para-Elemental Planes:        
6 Smoke Pearl    
7 Ice   Aquamarine
8 Ooze     Chocolate    
9 Magma Maroon    

Quasi-Elemental Planes:        
10 Lightning Violet    
11 Steam Ivory
12 Radiance Rainbow spectrum
13 Mineral Pink    
14 Vacuum Ebony
15 Salts Tan    
16 Ash Grey (dark)
17 Dust  Dun    

Others:        
18 Positive Material White    
19 Negative Material Black    
20 ¹ Shadow Silver    
20 ¹ (Time)(Colorless)
 -- Ethereal     Purple    

¹— Optional: Either assign 50% chance for each of  d6, treating 6 as a 1, to yield a result of 1 through 5.
   
 

So if you rolled a "20" and the two d6's and got both "shadow" and "time"  don't know what that is but I've always assumed its a Lovecraftian reference (i.e. "THE SHADOW OUT OF TIME") so its the Yog Sothoth dimension for your ass! ;)

Now I need to go over some forgotten shit.  So its not an endless "WHADDUHFUGGIZZIS? I hate da Planes!!! I hate da Planes!!!" reaction every time.

 Istus, the fate goddess, created by E.Gary Gygax for his WORLD OF GREYHAWK setting (a booklet and map for D&D players to play in the official D&D background which later after Gygax was turned into a joke and set about cheesy editors and hacks throughout the late 1980's, 1990's and 2000's), was featured in DRAGON MAGAZINE #69 (JAN 1983) and had a "time elemental". This time elemental was later featured in the MONSTER MANUAL II. 
The Plane of Time, in a D&D book written after Gary Gygax left TSR called MANUAL OF THE PLANES (1987), was reduced to a "demi-plane" (he described as a forming plane but AD&D players already were well aware what a demiplane was from the adventure ISLE OF THE APE as something created from wizardry) which is kind of ridiculous. I'm not saying the author Jeff Grubb was strange but in the preface he mentions that his parents hid garbage all over the house. NO JOKE! 

Keeping all this in mind and that the designers post-Gygax had nothing to lose in dulling down D&D to make their job easier, now that the boss was gone, we've reestablished that the Plane of Time was supposed to be a massive D&D related thing. STURMGESCHUTZ & SORCERY? SIXGUNS AND SORCERY? MUTANTS AND MAGIC? 

Keep this in mind for upcoming installments.

Another factor, of the 1987 MANUAL OF THE PLANES, was the lack of the alternate Partial Planes of Imagination. This concept introduced in the "EX" series of adventure modules was completely ignored in the wake of Gygax's departure from D&D. Here is the reference in EX2 THE LAND BEYOND THE MAGIC MIRROR (1983) by E.Gary Gygax:

As you read the material herein, it will become clear that the premise upon which the scenario is based is somewhat unusual in AD&D™ game terms. It is supposed that somewhere in the infinite multiverse exists the Partial Plane whereon young Alice made strange discoveries after passing through a looking glass. Furthermore, it presumes that this Partial Plane is but one of the endless variations on the original—one in which famous fictional characters are altered to different states entirely. In any case, the scenario offers new vistas in exploration and adventure: here players will greet lovely talking flowers, see and speak with Humpty-Dumpty, interact with the Iaughable Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and have a chance to stroll a beach with the droll Walrus and compassionate Carpenter.

With this in mind there are variations of all things in all forms. The need for a cast iron version is totally unnecessary. A Hyborian Age as a version of Earth's past in various "Prime Material Planes" and "Partial Plane of Imagination versions" where there are infiinite variants that are even crazier. This might truly be the lost promise of D&D right there and its been here all along. Once we got nailed down by that Manual of the Planes stuff everybody just forgot about it. 

Alright, now for the premise of AS ABOVE...SO BELOW. Each article will feature a plane-oriented thing and a reality bound related thing hence the name. This could be a monster, an item or even a spell but mostly monster stats. Notice the trend here? MONSTERS!!!!! ;) 

As a default, the "reality" is going to be my own campaign that I just mentioned called "the World of the Swordlands" that I usually feature here in the blog but its all fantasy universal style with you, the reader, using it for your "world" in mind, etc., etc. (For future articles, I want to detail aspects of the Swordlands but it will be unnecessary.)

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Say whatever you want its no big deal. Thanks, Gene