Similarities: I’d use all of the original names, alignments, and the scant inhabitants and/or features mentioned in the boxed set.
Differences: The major difference would be that I’d deviate from 2e’s tendency to say everything was a part of one outer plane or another. For example, the first one I’m working on is Xibalba which Douglas Niles defined as a part of the Nine Hells. I don’t care if it’s considered a demiplane or part of its own massive cosmology (the Great Pyramid), but I am going to separate it with only some possible portal connections. It should be as difficult to get to Xibalba from the Nine Hells as it is to get to Maztica from Faerûn.
I started writing really just in a stream of consciousness tonight after reading a little bit of the Mayan Popul Vuh (or summaries of its stories) so I’m heavily influenced by it - but like Qotal is Quetzalcoatl there will be some major changes from the historical.
I’ll post my text below, but I’d love to hear what you think. Please don’t mind typos and such, I have barely read it over.
The Maztican Campaign guide briefly describes the seventeen tenemos (planes) of the Maztican afterlife. For thousands of years, these heavens and hells were only thought of in the abstract. Native Mazticans knew the tenemos were the eventual destinations of their immortal tonalli (souls), but knew only fleeting details and scant actual facts.
Mazticans are in possession of far greater power now than they once had, and when the Amnians landed on the shores of Payit long ago they inadvertently brought their ideas as well. Now, there are Mazticans who wish to observe or even plunder the planes before their stay becomes one that is more permanent. Due to the vast and terrible dangers of these planes, their stay often becomes permanent anyway.
Like Maztica and greater Faerûn herself, the tenemos are connected to the foreign cosmology in hidden corners. Among the few Faerunians who know of the Maztican afterlife, many consider the tenemos to be nothing more than demiplanes. Semantics aside, they are in fact part of the Great Pyramid, a cosmology in itself which is described in greater detail in TWC1.
The TWT series is a new set of articles that describe these tenemos in greater detail. This particular title describes the lawful and evil tenemo of Xibalba. A terrible land of brutal tortures, cruel demons, and an eternal ballgame where the only prize is deeper cruelty. Though difficult, the demons have been tricked and defeated before - specifically by a set of heroic twin brothers who are said to still inhabit the outer reaches of Xibalba in the one place safe from the horrors of the tenemo.
Reaching Xibalba. Xibalba can be reached by any spell or ability that would also allow a character to enter the Nine Hells. Only folks born on the continent of Maztica itself, however may do so though Faerunians may reach the tenemo through a portal or gateway created by a True World ally. Sometimes, even the most evil of creatures will bargain or deal with particularly charismatic Mazticans but foreign born trespassers are rarely afforded the same luxury (game effects amount to Disadvantage on all Charisma based checks when dealing with Xibalban outsiders).
Reasons for Reaching Xibalba. Many of the same reasons a Faerunian PC might want or need to travel to the Nine Hells could also apply to Xibalba. Perhaps there is a particular tonalli which the PCs must speak with for a long lost secret? Perhaps instead this information can only be garnered from one of the plane’s terrible demons? Some spellcasters (hishnacasters in particular) are now known to summon demons from this terrible realm - it may only be the inhabitants that your heroes face instead of the plane itself.
Then there are the Hero Twins. Are they gods or men? What secret do they hold and can they offer power over the demons themselves? Are there riches to be found with their aid?
Features of Xibalba. Xibalba, like all tenemos with the exception of Mictlan, is but a single infinite realm with only one level. No matter where one stands on the plane, a grand ball court (the grandest in all the multiverse) is in view through the dust and haze. No matter how far one travels from this “center” of the plane, it is always less than a day’s travel to return. If a traveler heads due west from the ball court they will pass through demon infested wastes to reach the Calpulli of the Sun and Moon where the Hero Twins hold court and can offer some succor to the tormented spirits of the plane for a short time.
East, north and south also lead into barren wastes, but they are not unoccupied. The entire tenemo is known for its unique entities who’s only purpose in existence is ensuring the tonalli of the plane suffer for eternity. Most spirits only know of the existence of the Hero Twins but do not know where they reside and one demonic entity’s only task is to confound those who seek them out.
The Grand Ball Court. This massive stadium is the spiritual and physical center of the plane of Xibalba. With the exception of tonalli that escape into the wastes, ever soul to ever occupy Xibalba spends its time here. Distance in the stadium is distorted and is unsettling for living beings. The seating is almost vertical and living creatures who attempt to watch the game must make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw every hour or willingly lean over and drop into lower levels of seating causing 21 (6d6) bludgeoning damage in the process. Allies can easily prevent this from occurring and affected PCs snap out of this tendency at the start of their next turn.
The grand ball game itself is extremely lopsided. A team of four demonic entities often squares of led against an equal number of randomly selected souls of the dead. The entities (some described later in this article) enjoy different tortures for the spirits during the game itself, but the tonalli still attempt to endure because they know that once the game is concluded they are sacrificed on the ball court itself - erasing them permanently from existence. The gore from the game and subsequent sacrifice itself is left right where it lays unless one of the players decides to eat the leavings. Rot does not occur on Xibalba so the entrails and gore can remain indefinitely.
In all of the time of creation, the demonic entities have only lost on three occasions. Twice, however, the winning teams did not obtain a proper agreement from the demons and their torment afterwards was only prolonged. The balls used in the game are the heads of these victors - still very much aware and suffering. The Hero Twins, however somehow convinced the demons to release them upon their victory. It is said that they challenged the demons themselves and humiliated the demons by playing with only two players against the opposing four. Perhaps it was respect gained in these overwhelming odds that the demons honored their bargain.
The Calpulli of the Sun and Moon. Far to the west of the Grand Ball Court lies the Calpulli of the Sun and Moon. The abode if the Hero Twins and only respite that can be found anywhere on the plane. The twins are named Xbalanque and Hunahpu, but those names are long forgotten by even themselves. Ages in the past the brothers were the first living beings ever to come to Xibalba. They had come to reclaim the tonalli of their fallen father and uncle Hun Hunahpu and Vucub Hunahpu after the two were unfairly slain during a ball game on Maztica where it is rumored Zaltec himself had secretly participated. Not knowing that they faced a kn actual god, the two suffered an untimely death before what should have been their time. The Twins came to avenge their relatives but were too late.
As part of the deal, no inhabitants of Xibalba may enter the Calpulli of the Sun and the Moon without the express permission of the Hero Twins. They allow tonalli to enter (always wary that the tonalli may in fact be a trickster demon) but the spirits cannot stay long. Within hours of entering they begin to fade until they disappear and reform right back in the Grand Ball Court. Such escapees are typically sought out and targeted for punishment beyond even the norm, but most spirits feel it was worth their short respite. Unfortunately upon their return, all knowledge of the Calpulli of the Sun and Moon’s location is gone. If they ever wish to return, they must somehow escape once again and luckily find their way west once again.