A Walk Through the Planes – Part 24: Lords of Chaos




Probably the most obscure piece of Planescape lore1 from the setting’s 90s heyday is an article from issue 221 of Dragon Magazine titled “The Dragon’s Bestiary: Lords of Chaos.” Maybe it’s the terribleness of that name which makes people forget this essay exists, or perhaps that it’s about the Slaad Lords, who are kind of middling as a concept even if their execution here is surprisingly good. Whatever the case, it’s neither necessary reading nor a bad article. If you have no interest in the Slaads or Limbo, it’s easily skipped without missing much, but I actually rather enjoyed Edward Bonny’s (who might also be remembered for his weirdly dry and expository write-up of the Plane of Shadow a few months back) expansion of the Slaad Lords and consider them a fine addition to the setting. 

Two of the Slaad Lords the article focuses on, Ssendam and Ygorl, aren’t new at all. They were included in the Fiend Folio alongside the semi-original entry for Slaads; I suspect they were just ignored until now because they’re unnecessary and don’t really fit in well with the overall concept for the species. Ssendam is the “Lord of Insanity” (or “Lord of the Insane” in the Folio), and her original description begins with “This weird creature,” which sums her up pretty well. She’s drawn as a kind of gelatinous mass with pseudopods sticking out, with no explanation for what the hell is going on with her relationship to the rest of the slaads. Likewise, Ygorl is a scythe-wielding skeleton riding a huge ancient bronze dragon which…  I guess is ok-ish as an idea for a monster, but is more like a 10-year-old’s idea of the coolest grim reaper ever than an advanced frog-person. The original Fiend Folio is kind of a shitshow, is I guess what I’m trying to say, and turning its ideas into something usable is always a steep uphill battle.

“What if slaads were metal?” is a pretty dumb question, and Ygorl is the setting’s pretty dumb answer.

Somehow, Bonny manages to make this nonsense into something vaguely believable and interesting. Ssendam is described as a “golden amoeba devouring anything that comes close to it” and soon it becomes clear that while the slaads are supposedly chaotic, they don’t hold a candle to Ssendam. If anything, she’s much more a sort of H.P. Lovecraft monstrosity than anything yet found in D&D. She causes anything she meets to go insane, and can even do this to people as far away as distant planes. She’s not exactly Azathoth, but her meaningless insanity feels like something previously lacking in Planescape. 


Ygorl is recast as the “planar ruler of Limbo,” both the creator of the spawning stone and a force of permanent entropy and demise. Basically, Bonny figured out how to make that grim reaper halloween costume Ygorl insists on wearing into something thematically worthwhile. He’s all about “death, decay, and disorganization,” and keeps the slaads from growing in power because this goes against his ethos. Neat. His description even includes information about the relationships between the four slaad lords, and it’s at this point that they’re beginning to feel as interesting as any of the other planar hierarchies. Hell, in just this article they have more personality than all the eladrins combined.

He’s not just a frog-dude, he’s a frog-dude with a sense of fashion.

The two new Slaad Lords, Chourst and Rennbuu, take the Slaad Lords back to their froggy beginnings, and with this they’re a little bit less ridiculous than the originals. Chourst is pretty much the ur-Xaositect, being the Lord of Randomness and just all about schizoid behavior. Your enjoyment of him will probably be based on how interesting you find this type of behavior, but at least he feels more like a slaad than the original lords. 


Rennbuu is my favorite of all four, because he’s in many respects the most ridiculous. Rennbuu is the “Lord of Colors,” which means he has the power to change anyone’s color. And that’s kind of it. He’s also an artiste and an aesthete, and tends to spend his time changing the colors of people and things for purely artistic and creative reasons. He’s also all sorts of fun, and the description includes a story about the time “a horrified gold dragon returned to her lair to find that her five hatchlings had taken on the colors of the chromatic dragons.” He’s the least powerful of the lords, but the others won’t get near him as his ability to change colors means he can change the slaads’ ranks with a thought. He gets 10/10 for style, and is someone I would legitimately add to a campaign.

The article ends with some words of advice about using the Slaad Lords in a campaign and some ideas for plot hooks. In all, it’s not quite six pages of material, but all of it is fun and well-written. The details, such as Chourst cannonballing through githzerai cities for shits and giggles, make them feel cohesive with the Planescape world as a whole, and it’s easy to imagine how all four of these lords exist in Limbo’s odd ecosystem. No, “Lords of Chaos” isn’t necessary reading, but unlike other information from Dragon articles it’s not really carried over elsewhere in the setting, so it’s well worth seeking out. 

1. Ignoring the execrable novels, which is something this column remains devoted to doing.

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