Campaign Classics: Beyond the World Serpent Inn

A Walk Through the Planes – Part 110: Beyond the World Serpent Inn




Like a lot of people, I was thrilled when Paizo decided that its campaign classics issue would be an annual tradition… though unfortunately, the company would only manage to print three of these total before losing its license. The final of its campaign classics issues was published in January of 2007 (issue #351) and was themed after the World Serpent Inn, a location that originated with the somewhat cursed Tales of the Outer Planes, only to completely disappear from the game’s second edition before returning in a web supplement for third edition’s Manual of the Planes. When covering its previous appearances, I’ve made my negative feelings about this location known, especially when it comes to its original version which was complete nonsense. That being said, the third edition revamp is significantly improved, as at least literal gods aren’t chilling in the establishment so much, and Paizo and Eric L. Boyd do their best to make this mediocre location feel almost usable. 

Boyd’s article adds little to what’s known about the Inn, and some of the few real additions here, for instance the map, are questionably useful. However, he does his best to make it feel like a living establishment rather than a wooden façade for quest-giving, which includes writing up profiles for a number of oddball regulars hailing from all around the multiverse. One of these characters is even from Eberron, which links that setting to the rest of the game’s cosmology for what I believe is the first time (though I’m super unfamiliar with Eberron in general so I may be wrong). These profiles are what sets this article apart, and even if you decide not to use the Inn itself, these fascinating individuals could be easily moved to Sigil and used for practically any interplanar adventure. They’re a worthwhile addition, and give the whole article a purpose that was otherwise lacking in its rote repetition of information about the Inn itself. 

All of the graphic design for the World Serpent Inn profile is exquisite.

As can be deduced from the article’s title, the inclusion of this World Serpent Inn profile serves as a framing device for the whole issue. Articles focused on Al-Qadim, Dark Sun, Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Kara-Tur, Planescape, and Ravenloft all include information on how these settings are connected with the World Serpent Inn, and with this comes an excuse to visit these farflung locations. Fortunately, these segues don’t take up much material for most settings, and the articles focus largely on other topics, but it’s still a surprisingly elegant conceit that also helps with thematic material if this type of plane-jumping campaign is something you want to fit together. The exception to this rule would be the Dragonlance article, which details an adventure which only really makes sense when using the Inn, but given that unlike most of these settings Dragonlance still had a lot of support at this point in time, that seemed like a fine inclusion nonetheless.


So in a sense, this entire issue of Dragon is planar in nature, though as far as I’m concerned it’s really just that first framing article and the later Planescape one that are relevant for this column. “The Gatetown of Ecstasy” by Todd Stewart (featuring cartography by Robert Lazaretti!) is for once a Planescape article that doesn’t focus on the factions, though it’s slightly less useful than it might first appear due to its short length and vast amount of repetition. Ecstasy was never one of the more written-about gatetowns, but even so it received a bit of information in A Player’s Primer to the Outlands, and even a map (also by Lazaretti). Everything that was written about it before is included here more or less verbatim, such that its more universally useful information is barely updated (though there is a change in its population, which drops from 25,000 to 2,500, and it’s hard to say which one of these numbers is correct though given the maps I’d probably go with the updated number).

Robert Lazarretti’s back to Planescape, and doing work as brilliant as ever.

Which isn’t to say that there’s literally nothing new here, just that it’s minimal. The current philosopher king is an ultroloth, and why he’s taken over this role and what his plans for the city may be are unclear. It’s a nice plot hook, but nothing more than that, and only given a single paragraph of space. There’s also a 3.5 statblock for the simpathetic, last seen in the Monstrous Compendium Planescape Appendix II, though it’s not exactly a monster anyone was clamoring to see return. They’re involved in one of a few rumors in the town, none of which are terribly interesting.


Ultimately, I’m glad for both this slight update of Ecstasy and making the World Serpent Inn seem less ridiculous. However, the Planescape article in particular is far too short to do much with, which tends to be the problem with Paizo’s coverage for every setting. There just isn’t enough space spent on any one of these locations, and frankly, the best coverage from the issue is the dozen pages devoted to the Savage Tide adventure path. Like every other fan of the setting, I love seeing Planescape crop up, but it’s hard not to be disappointed when the offerings on display are essentially a retread of old material. Paizo really loved planar material at this point, but rarely did that affection ever jump over to Planescape. That being said, we won’t have to wait long before a more substantial update graces the magazine’s pages.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to get the latest Exposition Break articles sent to your inbox.