24 November 2021

Attitudes of Lower Planar denizens

Setting up for a new Planescape campaign I was putting some thought into how to make the inhabitants of the Lower Planes feel different one from the other. There is already a good distinctiveness between the terrains of the different levels of the different planes and while it is fine if the devils, demons and daemons can feel similar wherever you run into them there should be something to differentiate the other planes.

This is an attempt to highlight the 'cardinal sins' of each of the Lower Planes to try and help make them feel different. There are a couple of places where there are similarities in terrain - floating lumps of hostile terrain in the darkness could be Acheron, Gehenna or Carceri - and so the attitudes of the inhabitants should make things distinct.

Icons from map of Outer Planes by Rob "Lazz" Lazzaretti


The lens I am taking here is that each of the planes has a over-arching bad vibe - not to say that it lacks all the others, just that in each place there is something that stands out.

Going plane by plane:
Acheron is defined by bloodlust - it is a place of unending battle, war without rest - the exhaustion of continuous effort and perpetual danger from others.
The Nine Hells is defined by cruelty - where petty humiliations and getting ground up by the system is the point.
Gehenna is the place of suspicion and over-weening greed - inhabitants feel entitled to more than they have and are paranoid that everyone is trying to steal from them.
The Gray Wastes is the place of despair, where hope has fled.
Carceri is the ultimate prison where everyone is seeking an angle out and if you can't help them get out, they will make sure that you stay stuck here with them
The Abyss is chaotic destruction, where violence is the first resort to any question. It the place of watching your back and being ready to be assaulted at any moment.
Pandemonium is the place of madness, where noone can be trusted because their grip on reality is probably gone.

Stepping off from that we can look at what are the typical scenarios that showcase a planes aspects and what are attitudes of the inhabitants.

Acheron - a warzone run - something like Saving Private Ryan or navigating battlefields from Lord of the Rings. Expect the attitudes of the locals to be 'shoot first' but otherwise to be scorned for lack of fighting prowess. Petitioners rise again every day so there will be no hesitation to resort to violence.

The Nine Hells - a rescue from a devils contract - facing down 'the power', something like the Fugitive or Enemy of the State where all eyes are turned against you. Expect to be challenged for licenses and papers at every interaction, arbitrary seeming denial of any assistance on the basis of previously unknown rules. Attitude will be self-righteous 'these people deserve no help, they are outsiders' followed by the summoning of security to hunt down intruders. Sneering, gloating, conversations involve one upmanship even if just to say how your task is both beyomd your ablities and destined to fail. There will be a pretense of 'play by the rules and you will be fine' and 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' but these are lies and just used to shroud any conversations in objuscation and denial.

Gehenna - recovering an item - attitudes will be 'what can you do for me' coupled with a sense that you owe these people something but there is no reciprocity. Suspicion and greed are the watchwords with everyone expecting to be bribed and then rarely staying bought. Ruthless competition for profit and advantage.

The Gray Wastes - this is the place to run the 'post apocalypse' - not the fun gonzo Mad Max kind but the Threads or The Road kind, where there is no happy ending. Unless you escape, you die here. The attitude of the locals will be 'why bother', maybe spiced with enough spite to make sure that you perish here with them.

Carceri - the ultimate jail-break - expect to get roped into the get-out schemes of the locals or be followed with the intention of using your escape route. The attitude is going to be 'help me get outta here' - again with a flavour of making sure if they cannot escape, neither can you.

The Abyss - chaos reigns - the rule of violent passions, all against all, the ultimate expression of might makes right. The attitude of any local will be to push you to see if you can be dominated and your survival will be on the whims of the powerful. The locals will be twitchy, armed and ready to resort to violence in an instant. Something like the coked-up gang boss from movies, may even be quite friendly in one moment but raging in the next and relishes your fear and uncertainty.

Pandemonium - the labyrinth - filled with exiles, most of whom have gone insane, this is a place where peoples attitudes will be all over the map but nothing can be trusted because almost everyone is unmoored from reality - at best they will be deep in conspiracy theories and have at least some grasp on their immediate surrounds. Attitudes will turn on a dime under the influence of some imperceptible factors.

The key defining factor of all of the lower planes is absolute lack of trust. The ground itself is malevolent, simply traversing these places is not for the faint hearted, interacting with the locals is almost certain to be more trouble than it is worth. Unfortunately most of the reasons anyone would go to these awful places require dealing with the locals.

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