A Walk Through the Planes – Part 85: Cities of the Planes: N’Gati




As of third edition D&D, the Astral Plane was the only truly unique location of the multiverse in terms of time and space. Ok, maybe some demiplanes had their own weird business going on, but all of the other major planes were now defined by what happened to be located there rather than more extraordinary traits like timelessness. This, combined with the Astral’s newfound prominence as the only real transitive plane, meant that there was a need for more interesting things to find there. Monte Cook provided us with dead gods and a great deal of detail on the githyanki civilizations in A Guide to the Astral Plane back in second edition; he even included some new interesting locations such as the Speck in the Void tavern and the Swallowed City that sadly have never been revisited, but somehow the place still remained a bit vacant-feeling. Perhaps that’s fitting, given its reputation as the silvery void, but I’m always happy for new planar locations, especially when they’re as well-considered as N’Gati, which was profiled by James Jacob in the March, 2003 issue (#305) of Dragon. The magazine’s formatting makes it seem like this is the beginning of a new series of articles called “Cities on the Planes,” but alas this was to be the only entry, though at least it was a good one. 

N’Gati is a human establishment founded by a wizard who wished to take advantage of the plane’s timeless nature to be able to study his craft forever. This really begs the question as to why this one dude was the first to come up with this concept, but whatever. Maybe it’s because even getting to the Astral Plane usually requires a high character level, or maybe it’s that there are all those githyanki floating about plus the occasional astral dreadnought and other baddies, but on the whole it seems like a lot of people would be interested in taking advantage of this wackiness. For instance, say you lose a fight to someone but manage to escape, why not go to the Astral and train for like 20 years and then return to kick some ass the next day? It’s one of those things that’s never really worked when you think about it for long, but I still like the unique nature of the plane’s timelessness, and am willing to overlook some rather obvious plotholes (for lack of a better term) in order to keep it that way. 


This newly founded settlement turned out to be odder than even its founding mage might have expected. Apparently, all of the dead god corpses were already being used by the githyanki—there’s always been some wonkiness with regard to how this works with Anubis, but whatever—so he had to make due with what he found. This turned out to be an alien construct that wasn’t quite as dead as previously assumed, to the point that not only does it rumble around a lot, it can also create n’gatispawn (look, I don’t make these things up, I just write about them), who are “nightmarish creatures” who stand about 12 feet tall and resemble “an inverted coin balanced on its point. From this point extends a mass of long, thin, grasping feelers that allow the creature to grope its way along solid surfaces. The skin of a n’gatispawn seethes with oil and mucus, and its ‘head’ consists of a deep hollow filled with supernatural darkness and rimmed with a fringe of strange sensory organs.” And no, I can’t really picture this either, which is why it’s particularly annoying that there’s no drawing of it or the city itself in the article. When the city’s inhabitants delved too greedily and too deep, N’Gati came alive, killing its founder and worrying everyone else enough to keep them from their previous expansionist ways. Current day N’Gati is for visitors only now, with citizenship difficult to earn. 


Not only does the town have an intriguing history, with hints toward an ancient and unknown civilization who originally built this construct (possibly from the Far Realm?), there’s also some details about its current organizations and leadership. My favorite bit of information regards The Awakeners, a “small but troublesome sect of cultists” who are trying to wake the N’Gati construct up again. Also neat are the towers located on N’Gati’s “petrified equatorial tentacles” and an incredibly dark depiction of what prison looks like on the Astral Plane; remember, no food or water are required for life here, so cells don’t require openings, meaning that prisoners are buried alive for perhaps infinite stretches of time. Wow. 


Jacobs’ prose fills almost all of the article’s eight pages, which I appreciate for how much space it allows him to use in filling us in on the city’s backstory and places of interest, but is also a letdown given that this is literally all there is. Featuring a city in Dragon without including any sort of map is poor form, but in this case we don’t even get a clear idea what the place looks like, as there’s no art of that either except for a generic piece at the front that was likely commissioned for something else entirely (it’s what I included for this article’s banner). For instance, I read through the article and was still quite surprised when towards the end I learned about the place’s equatorial tentacles. “Wait, tentacles?” I thought. “What else is going on here that I had no idea about?” All of this was included earlier, but there’s just one paragraph actually describing this weird construct, and by the time I read through its history and current governmental system I’d forgotten all about the petrified tendrils and strange arm that are central to this location. Oh yeah, at one end of N’gati there’s a “single twisted arm curved out to a distance of about 400 feet, where it ended in a large array of frozen eyes and toothless maws.” All of which I find completely awesome, but even if you do remember the arm, you’re likely to forget about the toothless maws and frozen eyes. Which is I guess my way of saying that a picture is worth a thousand words etc., and when it comes to something completely alien a picture is worth like 10,000 words, so maybe don’t run this sort of thing if you’re not willing to commission at least some sort of artwork.


N’Gati itself is a wonderfully developed fantasy city. I doubt it ever gets mentioned again, as this is the type of location that sadly becomes forgotten almost as soon as it’s published, but any DM running something on the Astral Plane should consider using it. The city has a level of depth that’s impossible to include in the Planescape resources, as it’s simply too long for those publications (imagine if eight pages of A Guide to the Astral Plane had been spent on one location like this). I wish it had been given the love it deserved by the magazine with commissioned art and maps, but regardless this is an excellent read and one of the better planar additions we’ve seen since the end of Planescape. Fortunately, I do know this won’t be the last time we’ll be reading something from Jacobs, and I can’t help but wonder if he’s one of the primary reasons the earliest Dungeon adventure path features planar elements. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, and the important thing to note for now is that, for once, I do recommend getting ahold of this article yourself and giving it a read. 

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