Destriers of the Planes

A Walk Through the Planes – Part 47: Destriers of the Planes




One of the many circumstantial blessings of the short-lived Planescape setting is that as much as I’ve ragged on Bill Slaviscek’s contributions in the past, even his adventures read professionally. Due to the editorial standards of the line, while I may have had content issues with releases, even the worst adventures still feel like the contributions of an actual, intelligent designer, even if it’s one whose work I largely dislike. Relatedly, perhaps because of the setting’s obscurity, most of what TSR published concerning the planes, especially post-1994, was from the game designers themselves. A Monte Cook piece in Dragon might not be as exciting as a full Monte Cook book, but the general spark of creativity is still there. Conversely, a lot of older RPG works, especially within Dragon and Dungeon, read pretty amateurishly, whether that’s through general shoddiness or simple dullness. I have an extremely low tolerance for this type of material, and my eyes just glaze over when I come upon it. Unfortunately, that’s what happened with “Desteriers of the Planes,” an article in issue #243 of Dragon, published in January of 1998. 

Written by Steve Berman, who seemed to toss together more than a handful of these sort-of-random Dragon articles over the years, and illustrated by Roger Raupp, the article serves to answer the question of what would horses be like in the Outer Planes. The answer, it turns out, is that they fulfill every stereotype of the various alignments that you’d expect, no more and no less. The lawful good horse—or equar, as Berman names them, because planar horses are fancy like that—acts lawful good. The neutral evil horse acts evil… in a neutral sort of way. The chaotic neutral horse is named a potherrounce and acts chaotically neutral, though it also sometimes looks like a zebra, which I guess is pretty cool. Suffice to say, if you’re hoping for surprises or creativity, please look elsewhere.

A lithicthil equar horsing around.

This type of grid-filling mentality is something that unfortunately the format of Gygax-prescribed multiverse really leads to, but which the Planescape designers resisted as much as they could. Sometimes people will write online to complain about the Beastlands being neutral-chaotic good, but this type of surface analysis complete misses the goal of making the Outer Planes interesting. To real designers, other planes of existence were about experiencing new senses of reality. “Desteriers” is instead about showing us what a horse would look like if it was evil, and the result is… fine, I guess. It succeeds at what it attempts, so I can’t fault it for that, but why anyone would really bother going through all the work of stating out all these different types of planar horses is completely beyond me.


In addition to the yawn-inducing write-ups of these horses—ahem, sorry—equars, there’s also a spell for summoning your very own boring ass equar, a magical saddle that’s for the same purpose, and a short story that explains how all these planar steeds came to be, which I recommend skipping entirely for multiple reasons that would take longer for me to explicate than the actual length of the story. By the end of the article, you’ll well understand why equars received I believe one more mention in second edition AD&D and then were forgotten forever. I guess if you’re really into horses this article might be for you, but for the rest of us it’s better left skipped. 

A potherrounce equar changing shapes. The only thing it’ll eat is “mixed magical potions,” so I asume it won’t stay looking this hearty for long.

Raupp’s art for the article is actually quite lovely. It doesn’t fit in at all with the Planescape aesthetic, but then it’s also not trying to—the dude set out to draw some pretty horse pictures, and he certainly succeeded. If you like pictures of horses, some of which look weirder than normal but some of which are just, well, horses, then this article has you covered.


Before we conclude this short bit of overly snarky analysis and proceed to make like D&D and pretend that “Destriers” never existed, I do want to note that this is a planar article in Dragon, but it’s not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Planescape article (please ignore the fact that one of three fonts in its title is Planescape’s trademark Exocet). This shouldn’t be a huge surprise, given that the setting was at this point on its way out, but is still a disappointing sign of things to come. There are still a handful more true Planescape releases we’ll be covering, which is helped along by Planescape: Torment for PCs and the handful of articles released in its support, but 1998 begins the awkward transitional period at TSR in which Planescape is ending but the company still wants to encourage planar roleplaying. The friction between Planescape and duller, less interesting planar content can already be felt here, but it’s only going to get worse quite soon. 

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