The Manxome Foe

A Walk Through the Planes – Part 59: The Manxome Foe




We’re back to dealing with some of the more obscure parts of official Planescape lore, as “Manxome foe” was originally released as part of the Adventurer’s Guild line of modules for the RPGA (Role Playing Game Association). If you haven’t heard of any of that before, it’s fine. They haven’t been relevant since third edition, and even then were kind of an obscure offshoot part of the hobby. In essence, the RPGA tried to create a form of organized, sanctioned D&D, and its various arms such as Polyhedron and these modules were part and parcel of that attempt. Frankly, I find this type of organization a little bit antithetical to what I enjoy about D&D as a hobby, which is to say playing with my actual friends rather than randos, but to each their own. However, the fact is I’ve never played in any RPGA-sanctioned event, nor has anyone I’ve ever known, so my information here is going to be a bit sketchy.

Anyhow, from 1998-2000 the RPGA put out a series of releases called the Adventurer’s League. The best summary of this that I’ve found comes from RPG Geek, which says:


The Adventurer’s Guild was organized and promoted by TSR from 1998-2000. Each play series, or season, lasted three months and included about six to twelve scenarios. Generally, scenarios were intended for convention play, and many were produced for convention tournament play.

All of the modules released, aside from the handful published in TSR Jam 1999 and one published by WotC as its own PDF, are extraordinarily obscure and rare. They’re meant for a single lengthy session, and are intentionally disposable compared with TSR’s usual adventure modules. I’ll be covering some of these in a future essay about the myriad lost Planescape releases, but for now it seems worth noting that “The Manxome Foe” was the Planescape adventure included in the Jam book (it’s surprising that there even was one, considering that it was at this point a dead setting), and as such is the only one of these releases that’s actually possible to read as of 2022. 

The cartographer for this map isn’t listed, but it’s by far the best artwork for the release. I’m guessing it’s by Sam Wood?

By 1999, Chris Perkins was no longer just a freelance contributor to Dungeon magazine, he was its editor. He also happened to have been the only contributor to Dungeon to ever write Planescape material, so it seems fitting that his small contribution to this book of oddities would be in kind. That being said, what he wrote was never really integrated with what the rest of the Planescape gang were up to, even when it was very good, so it’s hard to say what they thought of his dabbling there. Like much of the company, he was also pretty overowkred at the time, and wrote this adventure in just two days. “The Manxome Foe” was meant as a tie-in to Tales from the Infinite Staircase (nearly every RPGA release was a tie-in to some product or another), and essentially retells the poem “The Jabberwocky” from Through the Looking Glass as a D&D scenario. 

Oddly, this wasn’t the first time Lewis Carroll’s works were translated, in some fashion, to D&D. In a pair of his somewhat less-celebrated works from the 1980s, Gary Gygax wrote a pair of modules titled Dungeonland and The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror themed after Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, respectively. These were set in a demiplane, making them planar content in a sense, but they’re also not terribly good and basically do what you’d expect (and as I learned from Shannon Appelcline, “Gygax wasn’t the only author to create a Wonderland-esque dungeon. Don Turnbull’s version of the same can be found as “Alice in Dungeonland” in White Dwarf #4 (December 1976 / January 1977).”) The most notable thing about their planar content was that the later release included a lightning quasi-elemental, but even with this I recommend skipping them entirely. 

Hannibal King is at this point a regular for the setting… which, let’s face it, is mostly unfortunate.

Perkins does something much more interesting with his adaptation. Instead of creating a campy demiplane, he situates Carroll’s works within the normal Planescape framework. This may sound weird, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a great idea and perfectly natural to what TSR had already set up. After all, one of the ideas of Planescape’s multiverse is that every mythology is out there somewhere, so then why not Carroll’s as well? Perkins decides to locate the Tulgy Woods etc. of “The Jabberowcky” within Bytopia, which also makes this the first time outside of Planes of Conflict that we’ve seen any reason whatsoever to visit the plane.


Even better, Perkins doesn’t just reuse the plot beats from “The Jabberwocky,” instead he places them within an original story. A deva decided that a demonic goristro had some goodness in her from a previous life, and believes that if he has her do one good deed then she’ll come over to his side. The deva is super wrong, but that’s fine, as the deed he assigns her is to kill the Jabberwocky, which has invaded Bytopia from a portal to the Abyss. The premise is simple, but for a single session adventure that’s totally fine, and the adventure also introduces multiple entertaining NPCs. Plus, its exploration of good and evil is already deeper and more nuanced than what we saw in, for instance, The Deva Spark

Admittedly, “The Manxome Foe” is pretty damn linear, but that’s to be expected for a single session adventure given not even a dozen pages of room. Players really do go through the entire poem, heading first to the Tulgey Wood to visit the Mom Raths and the Borogroves before arriving at the TumTum Tree and, eventually, the Jabberwocky himself, who of course can only be injured by Vorpal blades. Along the way, they’ll fight against both the Jubjub Bird and the Bandersnatch, before eventually meeting once again with that slithy deva Toves himself. It’s pure fan service, but in the best possible way. 

I do have to respect King’s (or whoever’s) choice to make one of the few pieces of accompanying art a picture of a bariaur kicking an angel in the nuts.

What I particularly love about the adventure is that while it does go through the entirety of the poem, it by no means ignores the planes. In Bytopia you’ll meet with a family of halflings and possibly, later, a dwarf. Up above is the plane’s other layer, Shurrock, and there’s no reason why you can’t wander off the path to any other part of Bytopia along the quest. Yes, we get those creatures from the poem, but this is also a world populated by tanar’ri and bariaurs and devas. It’s in every sense pure Planescape, from its hook with the Infinite Staircase to its resolution of a bariaur kicking a deva for being such a putz. All of this feels weirdly natural and unforced, such that while it’s by no means the most epic or astounding Planescape adventure, “Manxome Foe” does manage to feel genuinely like a part of the setting while also being a fine tribute to Carroll. 


It’s probably not worth seeking out this volume for the single, somewhat slight Planescape adventure it contains, nine pages long in total. That being said, the adventure is surprisingly delightful, and might be a nice change of pace for a campaign looking for a good one or perhaps two-session storyline (if you roleplay as much as my friends do, things can move pretty slow) in the midst of more typical adventuring. A bit of a footnote for the Planescape setting, as are a lot of things we’ll be writing about in the next few weeks, but certainly a pleasant one.

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