How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

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How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby Big Mac » Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:46 am

I've seen different sources claim that The Abyss either has an infinite number of layers...or 666 of them. (I think 666 sounds better, personally, but I'd like to know about anything that documents more than 666 layers too.)

The Abyss (Dungeons & Dragons) article on Wikipedia has a section about the Layers, but only 19 of the layer entries have citations to back up what is written.

How many of the different layers have been created in Manual of the Planes (1e, 3e or 4e) or Planescape canon?

How much canon exists to document each layer? Are some layers just names, with no other details? Do some layers have their own "rules of nature"?

Has anyone (maybe Planewalker) ever organised a project to create fanon layers to fill in the gaps...or add more detail to canon layers that lack details?

The Wikipedia article mentions Forgotten Realms and the Abyss. How much detail does Forgotten Realms canon add to The Abyss?

I've seen Dragonlance novels talk about The Abyss as part of a bespoke cosmology, but Wikipedia also says that two of the evil deities from Dragonlance have their own realms in The Abyss. How do people get the Dragonlance stuff to fit in with the Planescape/Manual of the Planes stuff?

What other D&D campaign settings have a relationship with The Abyss in their canon? And what "core" canon would you localise as being the canon of Greyhawk, Nentir Vale and/or Forgotten Realms?
Last edited by Big Mac on Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby Khedrac » Fri Jul 07, 2017 10:12 am

1st Ed claimed 666 layers. I don't think 2nd Ed changed this, but it may have done for Planescape, either way by the time 3rd Ed got there it had become infinite.

A good source of layers in the module H4, I will try to remember to check when I get home after work.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby zontoxira » Fri Jul 07, 2017 2:38 pm

2e's Planescape implied, if not stated clearly, that The Abyss had infinite layers. The first layer, Plain of Infinite Portals, was named for that reason.
That being said, I don't think there has been any official layer below 666. In Planes of Chaos, it is stated that Guvners have managed to record a great number of layers (Book of Chaos, pg 20): "The current count is 679 layers, 141 of them habitable by most planars." This post from 2003 lists a bunch of layers, taken from various sources/websites.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby Khedrac » Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:06 pm

The 1st Ed Manual of the Planes (1987) describes a nummber of layers, but does not give layer numbes for any other than layer 1: the Pane of Infinite Portals or the Palace of 1001 Closets.
However, the opening words of the section on the Abyss are "The 666 lasyers of the Abyuss are an estimate" so they were already delimiteing the number back then.

Module H4 is a bit more informative, expanding on all of the suggestions in the Manual of the Planes, howver it does not give layer numbers for all of the ones it does describe, which are:
1 Pazunia
? The Layer of Desert
? The Glacial Layer
? The Realm of Demogorgon
? The Layer of Space
? The Maelstrom
? The Abyssal ocean
? The Mansion of Yeenoghu (or rather the barren salt waste the mansion is pulled across)
65 The Demonweb Pits
? The Layer of Rock
? The Realm of Jubilex
? The Realm of Urdlen
? The Layer of Delusion
? Baphomet's Maze
? Lair of the Sem-Dmeons
? The Caverns of Zuggtmoy
? The Palace of Graz'zt - note, at this point the palace is the entire infinite layer!
? Realm of Fraz-Urb'luu
? Glacier of Kostchtchie
? Realm of Feng-Tu
? Temples (Realm) of Kali
? (Realm of) Vaprak of the Trolls
? Lair of Laogzed
? Layer of Evil Incarnate
333 Realm of Orcus

I think quite a few of these are given numbers in other 1st Ed products, but I don't have them to hand, nor would I know which ones to check.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby Big Mac » Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:07 pm

Khedrac wrote:1st Ed claimed 666 layers. I don't think 2nd Ed changed this, but it may have done for Planescape, either way by the time 3rd Ed got there it had become infinite.


I like 3rd Edition rules, but I also like the AD&D cosmology, so I think I'd be tempted to stick with 666.

Khedrac wrote:A good source of layers in the module H4, I will try to remember to check when I get home after work.


H4 The Throne of Bloodstone! The module designed for 100 level PCs? :lol:

I suppose if a GM allows uber-high level PCs, they could go that deep into The Abyss and stay alive for a while.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby Big Mac » Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:23 pm

zontoxira wrote:2e's Planescape implied, if not stated clearly, that The Abyss had infinite layers. The first layer, Plain of Infinite Portals, was named for that reason.
That being said, I don't think there has been any official layer below 666. In Planes of Chaos, it is stated that Guvners have managed to record a great number of layers (Book of Chaos, pg 20): "The current count is 679 layers, 141 of them habitable by most planars."


I wonder why Planescape decided to go up above 666. It's already a very big number and it's already not easy to add in that much detail.

zontoxira wrote:This post from 2003 lists a bunch of layers, taken from various sources/websites.


Thanks. Lordnightshade posted a great list. Sadly, I didn't see any citations. I'd actually be able to go look up the source material on any layers I'm interested in, so a book and page citation would be best for me.

(I'm OK with fanon too, but I'd like to know what is canon and what is fanon.)

zontoxira wrote:Being an avid fan of Planescape, I'd use the setting's canon for every campaign I'm playing.


I would too...unless it clashed with something from Spelljammer, in which case I'd go for a "Ben Kenobi solution" that tries to make everything true, from a certain point-of-view.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby Khedrac » Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:23 pm

So, on to 3.0/3.5...
Manual of the Planes (2001 - 3.0)
1 Plane of Infinite Portals
6 Realm of a Million Eyes - home to the Great Mother (Beholder 'goddess')
23 Icy Wastes - home to those who serve Kostchtchie (so the glacier is no longer the entire layer)
45, 46 & 47 - Azzagrat, the triple realm of Graz'zt (no longer a single palace, I wonder if this means he has 4 layers...)
66 Demonweb Pits (hmm, it's moved down one)
74 Smargard - home of Meershaulk, the Yuan-Yi deity
88 Abysm - Home of Demogorgon and is Brine FLats, very unliek the 1st Ed jungle.
113 Thanatos - used to be Orcus' realm before he was killed (either someone re-numbered or Orcus had multiple layers).
222 Slime Pits - home to both Jubilex and Zuggtmoy who now share a realm, that's a bit of a come-down for them.
348 Fortress of Indifference - outcasts and half-demons avoiding the Blood War
489 - Noisome Vale - ruled by a (missing) balor.

The Hordes of the Abyss (2006 - 3.5) has as Appendix II (page 156) a nice table naming apporx 92 layers (so I am not going to type it out).
It mostly agrees with the Manual of the Planes (3.0), but there are a few differences:
Layer 23 has been renamed to 'The Iron Wastes'.
Layer 74 is now shared between Meershaulk and Ramenons.
Layer 88 has been renamed 'The Gaping Maw'.
Layer 222 has been renamed 'Shedaklah'.
Layer 348 has been renamed 'Indifference'.
And Layer 489 is now contested, presumably the balor has now been missing for long enough that various groups now fight over the layer.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby Khedrac » Fri Jul 07, 2017 4:33 pm

Big Mac wrote:H4 The Throne of Bloodstone! The module designed for 100 level PCs? :lol:

I suppose if a GM allows uber-high level PCs, they could go that deep into The Abyss and stay alive for a while.
Please, it is "For Characters Level 18 to 100".
Seriously it is the direct sequel to H1 to H3 so the primary pregen characters are about level 19, there are also 7 of them which is one light for a standard adventure of the day.

It has options for some of the encounters to make them tougher for characters depending on average party level, the categories varying between 20 or less, 21-50, 50-75 and 76+ and 25 or less, 26-74 and 75+, ohwever I think they are expected to be able to steamroller 90% of the encounters while the 'low' level party is expected to be 'sensible' about navigating the Abyss (i.e. stealthy).
The level 100 pregen chars number 4 and are terrible for optimisation - in fact, I think half of them will have problems using half of their abilities because of they way they all are dual-classed!

So yes, the "level 100" is a bit of a joke, but the module is seriously aimed at levels 18-20.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby Havard » Fri Jul 07, 2017 5:20 pm

Khedrac wrote:
Big Mac wrote:H4 The Throne of Bloodstone! The module designed for 100 level PCs? :lol:

I suppose if a GM allows uber-high level PCs, they could go that deep into The Abyss and stay alive for a while.
Please, it is "For Characters Level 18 to 100".
Seriously it is the direct sequel to H1 to H3 so the primary pregen characters are about level 19, there are also 7 of them which is one light for a standard adventure of the day.

It has options for some of the encounters to make them tougher for characters depending on average party level, the categories varying between 20 or less, 21-50, 50-75 and 76+ and 25 or less, 26-74 and 75+, ohwever I think they are expected to be able to steamroller 90% of the encounters while the 'low' level party is expected to be 'sensible' about navigating the Abyss (i.e. stealthy).
The level 100 pregen chars number 4 and are terrible for optimisation - in fact, I think half of them will have problems using half of their abilities because of they way they all are dual-classed!

So yes, the "level 100" is a bit of a joke, but the module is seriously aimed at levels 18-20.


Indeeed, we talked a bit about the 100th Level PC concept in this thread about adapting the Bloodstone Modules to Mystara.

I really like this idea of playing demi-god like heroes in an epic module, but from what I understood they didn't really take it seriously enough. I wonder if the BECMI Immortal Rules or 3E's Epic Level Handbook would have been more appropriate for the style H4 aimed at.


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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby ripvanwormer » Fri Jul 07, 2017 6:35 pm

Big Mac wrote:Has anyone (maybe Planewalker) ever organised a project to create fanon layers to fill in the gaps...or add more detail to canon layers that lack details?


There was a very long, and often silly, thread on the Wizards of the Coast message boards in which people (including me) would create layers. Basically, each person created the name of the following layer, and the next person to contribute would create a layer based on that name.

Here's an old thread on Canonfire that did the same thing.

The Internet is full of fan layers of the Abyss, though. Here's the Mimir's Concordance and here's a version of it I had on my old, terrible Geocities site where I tried to list every fan-created layer at the time. Here's my page that included some of the layers in greater detail.

I think the idea that there are "gaps" is the wrong way to look at it, though, since it implies that the Abyss is orderly and stable enough to have a definitive list of the layers there. Planescape suggests that the Fraternity of Order has such a list (a work in progress rather than a claim to have visited every layer possible), but the chances are good that they've visited multiple layers more than once and misidentified them as separate layers, that some of the layers have merged or been devoured or slid into other planes since they were catalogued, and that new layers are continuously born.

The idea of a list of 666 layers also implies a spatial relationship that Planescape doesn't actually support. There's a fan impression that the layers of the Abyss are neatly stacked on top of one another, like the pages of a book. Nothing could be further from the truth: the Fraternity of Order simply listed them in the order of discovery, and for the most part they branch randomly out of pits in the first layer, with no rhyme or reason to them. Deeper layers may not be accessible from the first, but you're still looking at a tangled root system rather than a neat stack.

That's sort of the point of the Fraternity of Order, though: they're attempting to find an order in the planes that maybe doesn't actually exist.

The Abyss is too chaotic a place to have a stable 666 layers at all times. That doesn't mean the number of layers is literally infinite, but it does mean that there's no strict limit to them. There can always be more.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby Zeromaru X » Sat Jul 08, 2017 1:05 am

In 4e canon, the Abyss is created by Tharizdun by planting the Shard of Pure Evil (an artifact created by the last obyriths) in the Elemental Chaos. The Shard deformed reality and fused the chaotic elements into the Blood Rift, creating the Abyss. During the fights between Tharizdun, the Primordials, the Obyriths and the first Demon Lords, the Shard was pushed "further" into the Abyss, burrowing a hole into the fabric of reality, spawning infinite layers.

Demonomicon (4e) has a Roll of Abyssal layers (p.80) with all known abyssal layers, although it says that those are the "best known" ones. A few of them are described in the book, or in other 4e sources (mags, Manual of the Planes). The roll in fact reference those outside sources. But not all layers get the treatment. Some not even had a single line of text saying something about them.

Here's the list:



Beyond that, there are other places in the 4e Abyss:

The Blood Sea: Also known as the Abyssian Ocean, the Blood Sea connects to every other ocean and sea in the Abyss. Mentioned in Demonomicon

The Plains of Rust: Located "near" the Plain of Thousand Portals, an abyssal layer used by devils as a sort of advanced headquarters in the first battles of the Blood War. Detailed in the short story "The Plains of Rust".

The Lair of Anthraxin the Devourer: Floating fleshy isles inhabited by goriostro demons and ruled by an ancient and powerful red dragon. Detailed in Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons

Coagulous: A traveling layer of the abyss, it orbits its demon lord, Codricuhn the Blood Storm, like a moon. Detailed in Dungeon 172

The Forge of Four Worlds: Set in the blackest depths of the Abyss, it is written in obscure texts that the Forge offers the power of a primordial to those who can control its Soulfire Furnace. Detailed in E3 Prince of Undeath.

The Abyssal Nadir: The "Hearth" of the Abyss (the Shard of Pure Evil is located there), existing at the "limit" of the Universe. Detailed in E3 Prince of Undeath.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby zontoxira » Sat Jul 08, 2017 8:46 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:I think the idea that there are "gaps" is the wrong way to look at it, though, since it implies that the Abyss is orderly and stable enough to have a definitive list of the layers there. Planescape suggests that the Fraternity of Order has such a list (a work in progress rather than a claim to have visited every layer possible), but the chances are good that they've visited multiple layers more than once and misidentified them as separate layers, that some of the layers have merged or been devoured or slid into other planes since they were catalogued, and that new layers are continuously born.


That's genius.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby willpell » Sun Jul 09, 2017 7:14 pm

Based on canonical descriptions, I definitely don't buy that the number of layers existing at one time is infinite; it would make no sense to keep hearing the names of Orcus, Graz'zt, Demogorgon, and about a dozen other demon lords, if there were well over 987 octillion, 654 septillion, 321 sextillion, 098 quintillion, 765 quadrillion, 432 trillion,109 billion, 876 million 543 thousand two hundred and ten other demon lords, each one commanding the resources of one or more entire layers (and that's even assuming that only one in a hundred trillion planes produces a demon lord at all, and only one in a hundred *million* trillion of those demon lords is strong enough to potentially rival the Big Twenty-Or-So), all competing for the same Ultimate Prize that Demogorgon currently holds and Orcus and Graz'zt both covet. People who toss the word "infinite" around lightly don't seem to have really thought about what it actually MEANS.

What I would accept is the idea that the Abyss constantly generates new planes and destroys old ones at about the same rate, and that the hundreds of documented planes are the ones which have consistently failed to be destroyed in this fashion (although "consistent" is relative).

I also really buy the idea that the numbering of the abyssal layers is exclusively the result of the Guvners trying to impose order on this chaos, and that they are utterly arbitrary in their constant fussbudgetry over what should and should not "count", with every new administration merging or disambiguating the planes differently, based on constantly shifting subjective data. I would definitely make sure that when the players were gathering info in preparation for a planar excursion, half the information they got was canonical, half of it was stuff I made up, and half of *both* those categories would be proven false when they arrived. Really, "half" is generous; misinformation probably ought to outweigh accurate data by a factor of like ten to one.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby Big Mac » Sun Jul 09, 2017 11:52 pm

Thanks for all the information. It's interesting to see how many layers have been consistent across the editions.

I don't think I could realistically create 666 (or so) documented to track down the canon for each documented layer. It must be fairly hard to be an Abyss expert.
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Re: How many Layers of The Abyss have been created

Postby Khedrac » Mon Jul 10, 2017 9:02 am

willpell wrote:What I would accept is the idea that the Abyss constantly generates new planes and destroys old ones at about the same rate, and that the hundreds of documented planes are the ones which have consistently failed to be destroyed in this fashion (although "consistent" is relative).

Now this is an option I hadn't previously considered, but I really like it. :twisted:
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