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Planes of Chaos (2e)

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Take the plunge into the infinite depths of the Abyss; the wild passions of Arborea; the immeasureable randomness of Limbo; the howling madness of Pandemonium; and the glorious battlefields of Ysgard.

Inside this tome, you'll find the following:

  • The Book of Chaos, a 128-page guide for the Dungeon Master to the places, creatures, and special conditions of the five Chaos Planes;
  • The Travelogue, a 48-page player's guide to these planes, profusely illustrated with full color maps and illustrations;
  • Chaos Adventures, a 32-page adventure book containing 3 adventure outlines for each plane—that's 15 adventures in all!
  • Monstrous Supplement, a 32-page booklet detailing 15 new monsters, including new tanar'ri, the inhabitants of Yggdrasil, and the ever-changing creatures of Limbo; and
  • Five fully detailed maps of the realms of Chaos.

Product History

Planes of Chaos (1994), by Lester Smith and Wolfgang Baur, is the first of a trilogy of supplements describing the outer planes of the Planescape Campaign Setting. It was published in August 1994.

Continuing the Planescape Series. Planes of Chaos was the third supplement for Planescape Campaign Setting (1994), following "The Eternal Boundary" (1994) adventure and the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994). It was also the first book to address the setting itself since the release of the original boxed set release, so it answered the question, "What does a Planescape setting supplement look like?"

The answer was quite impressive. Planes of Chaos is a massive boxed set that includes a 128-page GM's setting book, a 48-page player's setting book, a 32-page adventure book, a 32-page Monstrous Compendium, and five poster maps. Together these books detail the five chaotic planes in the Great Wheel: the Abyss, Arborea, Limbo, Pandemonium, and Ysgard. As you might expect, the setting books each cover all five planes. However, the same is true of the other two books as well. Thus, the adventure book contains 15 adventures, a low-, medium-, and high-level scenario for each of the five planes. Similarly, the monsters book features critters from all five planes, though it's not quite as rigid in its design.

TSR would maintain the general style of detailing five (or six) planes in its future boxes about the outer planes, though the organization of those later supplements was somewhat different.

Expanding Planescape. Planes of Chaos notably expands five outer planes that had been with D&D since Gary Gygax first laid out his vision of the planes in The Dragon #8 (July 1977).

The Abyss, home of the tanar'ri (demons), had gotten the most attention previously. It was the first outer plane featured in an adventure, when players got to visit the 66th layer in Q1: "Queen of the Demonweb Pits" (1980), then players were able to revisit it in H4: "The Throne of Bloodstone" (1988), which touched upon the first 30 levels of the Abyss and made an extended visit to the 333th level, where Orcus resided. Planes of Chaos notes that 679 layers are now known in the Abyss; it gives special attention to the Plain of Infinite Portals (layer 1), Thanatos (layer 133), the Plains of Gallenshu (layer 377), and Torremor (layer 503).

Arborea was previously known as Olympus, the home of the Greek pantheon. It dramatically changed in the Planescape setting, becoming a forested realm that's the home not just to the Olypmic gods, but also to many of the elf and faerie gods. All three layers of the plane receive some detail here, with special attention given to Arvandor (the home of elf gods), Brightwater (the home of certain Forgotten Realms gods), and Mount Olympus (the home of Greek gods).

Limbo is somewhat amusingly presented primarily as the home of the races of creatures created by future writer Charles Stross: the Githzerai and the Slaadi. That's probably because he explicitly placed them in Limbo, way back when he introduced them in the Fiend Folio (1981), and in the years since, no one else had made good use of the plane. No surprise, as it's very inhospitable, existing as primal, ever-changing chaos — practically an elemental plane of chaos. Planes of Chaos does nonetheless include some setting info for Limbo in the way of small towns and other sites.

Pandemonium is a howling cavern of chaos that's most important as the source of the Styx, one of the great paths winding through the Planescape setting. Planes of Chaos details all four layers of Pandemonium: Pandesmos, Cocytus, Phlegethon, and Agathion. It also describes the Scaly Dog Inn(!), proving that some things are universal.

Ysgard had previously been known as Gladsheim and had received some attention in "Plane Facts on Gladsheim", an article by Roger E. Moore that appeared in Dragon #90 (October 1984). Previously it had mainly been seen as the home of the Norse gods, and that description is still largely apt. The three layers of Ysgard include Ysgard, Muspelheim, and Nidavellir, while Alfheim, Asgard, Svartalfheim, Valhalla, and Vanaheim all can be found within. The world tree, Yggdrasil, is also rooted in Ysgard. However, the scope of the plane has been extended slightly to be a larger-than-life land of adventure. Some other creatures such as snake-women and werebeasts have found their way in, while Selune of the Forgotten Realms dwells in the Gates of the Moon and Bast of Egypt dwells in Merratet.The Infinite Staricase also has its foundation here.

Generally, Planes of Chaos does a great job of not just detailing these five planes, but also reimagining them as places of adventure that characters of any level could visit. New sects and societies fill out the setting, making Planescape more than ever a setting about people, bringing its cosmic potential down to earth.

Future History. Two more boxes would follow, detailing the rest of the outer planes: Planes of Chaos (1995) and Planes of Conflict (1995); afterward, Planescape would move inward. Two other books are considered particularly good companions for Planes of Chaos due to their focus on the tanar'ri: Hellbound: The Blood War (1996) and Faces of Evil: The Fiends (1997).

About the Creators. Smith had previously written extensively for GDW, but this was his first D&D supplement, following his successful work on TSR's Bughunters (1993) RPG. Baur had started writing for TSR in 1993, working on the Al-Qadim and Forgotten Realms lines; this would the first of three sourcebooks he wrote for Planescape, with In the Cage: A Guide to Sigil (1995) and Planes of Law (1995) to follow.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Reviews (5)
Discussions (5)
Customer avatar
David K January 09, 2014 7:37 am UTC
It would be helpful if the proprietors confirmed whether or not the set is complete and correct.
Customer avatar
James B January 08, 2014 5:16 am UTC
Is this boxed set 100% complete? The stuff left out of the Birthright scan has made me a little suspicious.
Customer avatar
James B January 09, 2014 1:41 am UTC
I am informed that the boxed set is missing one of its maps, which was swapped with a Mystara map. I would hope they'd correct such an obvious mistake ASAP.
Customer avatar
Brett D April 16, 2014 7:07 pm UTC
PURCHASER
The map file (the V download) still has a couple map pages swapped from another product. Two are obvious swaps (the Mystara map and the blank hex map) but I'm not sure if the map of Sigil is supposed to be in this set. It could be a reprint or different from the Planescape Sampaign Set version.
Customer avatar
Zia M February 22, 2015 4:16 am UTC
PURCHASER
Yes, the Sigil map wasn't in the original box set (at least not in mine), and the Known World map and it's corresponding blank hex map is from X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield (and missing from that pdf anyway). Four poster maps are complete, but it's still missing the Abyss poster map. It's a shame, the other four maps (Ysgard, Limbo, Pandemonium, Arborea) look quite nice.
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Wizards of the Coast
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