The Planes - Malcanthet

A Walk Through the Planes – Part 112: The Planes




For my purposes, it’s certainly handy that Paizo decided to title every issue of Dragon that they published, though sometimes those titles are a bit… uninspired. “The Planes” is issue #353 of the magazine (March 2007), and it primarily focuses on, you guessed it, the planes. That being said, the real highlights of this issue, while planar in nature, also happen to be entries in the long-running “Demonomicon of Iggwilv” and “Ecology of” series. The big star here is a feature on Paizo’s newly created Demon Queen of the Succubi, Malcanthet, which takes up 13 pages and is loaded with great information about her and her realm. So few demon lords were created post-Gygax that profiling one at great length like this was a real treat, and I wholeheartedly recommend the article. Likewise, Todd Stewart’s “Ecology of the Keeper” devotes five pages to one of the more memorable and strange Planescape creations. It’s a must-read for fans of the setting, and one of my absolute favorites from this entire series.

Nestled between these two articles that I won’t be covering right now—because we’ve already touched upon them (kinda) in the past—are a pair of planar-themed features I do want to touch upon, though neither one of them is quite as “new” as might be hoped. “Multiple Dementia,” also by Todd Stewart, devotes six pages to demiplanes, one of the more oft-neglected parts of the multiverse. I was happy to see this topic receive some space in the magazine, but unfortunately practically all of the information included here is just a repackaged version of what we saw previously in A Guide to the Ethereal Plane. The Black Abyss, the Demiplane of Imprisonment, and Moil each receive about a page of information, and all three of these demiplanes are drawn from that earlier source.


The new tidbits of information Stewart adds are actually quite good. The Black Abyss is tied in with the growing mythology about the Vaati, and even includes a reference to the incredibly obscure slaadi lord Ygorl. Moil’s write-up updates us on what’s been going on in this demiplane since second edition, and the Demiplane of Imprisonment, umm, at least features good artwork. For that matter, all of Julie Dillons’ work for this article is excellent, as is a more-or-less authoritative list of other canonical demiplanes from D&D, which includes not just the ones mentioned in AGttEP but also the weird/dumb ones invented by Gygax like Dungeonland and The Isle of the Ape. A couple of these I couldn’t even recognize where they came from, which is the type of encyclopedic obsessiveness I always appreciated from Paizo. However, for anyone who does have the Planescape book, there’s not much really here for you except some nice art. 

Julie Dillions is one of those artists I only discovered from Dragon, and I wish Paizo kept working with her more rather than its usual artists. Great work, I’m glad she seems to have a thriving career.

If you want new information, a much better place to look would be “The Archomentals, Part II: Princes of Elemental Good” by Eric Jansing and Kevin Baase. The good-aligned archomentals have always been obscure, and even their Planescape write-up towards the very end of that line in the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix III was slapdash. They seemed to exist largely because of symmetry and some obscure first edition mentions, but on the whole their mythology was half-assed and perfunctory. Which isn’t to say that what appears here will blow any minds, but I do feel that for once they feel like an important part of the Inner Planes, which was no small feat of the authors. 

For one thing, they’re now connected with the increasingly-less-obscure chaos-law war that between the Wind Dukes of Aaqa and the Queen of Chaos. More individuals are mentioned, and there’s some strife between these archomentals due to their friction on the chaos-law axis. None of this is terribly deep, but there’s something here that would’ve been worth exploring, if only the edition hadn’t ended so abruptly a few months later. The lack of much prior information meant that Jansing and Baase had a lot more room for expansion here, so while there’s a bit of repetition, much of what they include is fresh, and continues hinting at that primordial war across the multiverse. For instance, “Ben-hadar’s experiences in the war between Law and Chaos affected him profoundly. From the betrayal at the hands of his supposed allies he learned that evil comes from all sides and to trust no one but himself.” While the actual Rod of Seven Parts adventure left me largely bored with all of this, the hints at Inner Plane strife first revealed in this article caused me to wish for a much more complete accounting of this history. 

For that matter, her work was so much more inspired than the illustrations for the archomentals that I decided to post another one here. I love demi-planes that don’t look typical, and this art makes the Plane of Imprisonment far more flavorful than before.

In essence, this is the type of Paizo-published article that these second party publications excelled at during this period, which is even more impressive considering that this was written by freelancers. Remember Bwimb, that insanely obscure “archomental” of ooze killed off by Orcus? Probably not, but this article sure does. “The evil archomental of ooze, the mighty Bwimb, often served as the biggest thorn in Ben-hadar’s side, polluting his pure waters with foul excretions. Bwimb’s death has changed filings little, as his daughter (Bwimb II) continues to pester Ben-hadar with her attempts to gain his attention.” What about the even more obscure, borderline apocryphal slaad lord Rennbuu? If you’re not literally me, then almost assuredly you have no idea what I’m talking about, but Jansing and Baase sure do.  “Rennbuu, the slaad lord of colors, often visits Ssesurgass to admire and transform the massive, colorful coral reefs there. Ben-hadar and Rennbuu have formed an unusual friendship of sorts around Rennbuu’s strange art forms, with Ben-hadar providing the inspiration and raw’ materials, and Rennbuu changing the natural palette in bold new ways.”


This article is a delight, even if much of it is wasted on 3.5 statblocks. All four good archomentals feel individual, perhaps even moreso than their counterparts. Combined with the other planar articles, this makes for one of Paizo’s strongest releases, and in fact one of the best planar-themed issues of Dragon ever published. For that matter, there’s even one more, peripherally related article at the back of the issue, which I’ll write about below, though grudgingly.

Ramón Pérez did nice-looking work with some bland concepts, but it’s not terribly memorable.

“Outsiders of the Forgotten Realms” adheres to the third edition, confusing cosmology for this campaign setting, and as such the planes these monsters hail from are simply not the same ones as in the Great Wheel. As such, the listed creatures feel out of place and non-canonical there, despite the fact that moving planar beings from one cosmology to another requires pretty minimal effort. First is the Harmonious Choir of the Words, a new celestial that makes no sense with what we know of the race otherwise, even in the blurb explaining how to convert them to the normal cosmology, which says, “Harmonious choirs of the words typically inhabit the Concordant Domain of the Outlands, are always neutral, and serve no deity, They roam freely about both that plane and the libraries of Sigil as well.” Which is to say that they’re not celestials at all in the normal sense… and what does it mean to roam freely about Sigil? I don’t know, and I don’t like it.


Slivers are a celestial that at least kinda works with the usual definition of the race, and they can alternately “call the Olympian Glades of Arborea home, where they serve Sehanine Moon bow, elven goddess of the moon.” Which is, umm, pretty dumb, frankly, because they can literally be used as is without that problem since the Forgotten Realms gods exist as part of the Great Wheel, at least as of Planescape. Bah. “Slivers, a group of shining female servitors said to be created from equal parts fire and moonlight, serve the goddess of the moon, Selune. The goddess often sends these celestials to aid mortals or to show her favor or presence.” Really, the issue here is just that Selune is an established part of the Planescape/Great Wheel multiverse and trying to retcon this fact is awkward as hell, both here and many other times over the last decade. Likewise, death devils are far from an interesting addition to the game, but they make much  more sense hailing from Hell than the “Fugue Plane” anyhow. Forcing these beings to fit into the Forgotten Realms like this just feels wrong when they would’ve worked so well in the normal cosmology.

Umbral glooms roam the Plane of Shadow regardless, though like most shadow monsters they’re rather dull. Oddly, there’s another creature mentioned in the article’s sidebar, black beasts of Bedlam, but these aren’t actually included in the issue, though it’s noted that they’d make a good fit for Pandemonium. Which, without knowing anything else about them… sure, why not. None of these monsters would ever be seen again in Dungeons & Dragons, but that doesn’t seem like much of a loss, and the awkwardness of creating new planar creatures in a world with an amorphous, confusing cosmology like third edition’s Forgotten Realms really comes to a head here. If you’re really jonesing for some new planar beings, then I guess you can do worse than these, but given how many monsters third edition had at this point, I can’t imagine anyone actually feeling this way.

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