Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

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Palomides
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Planar Renovation Project: Bytopia

Based on Quickleaf's request, here is a reboot of the PRP: Bytopia

OK, first, here is the link to the earlier thread
http://mimir.planewalker.com/forum/planar-renovation-project-bytopia

While not making the plane perfect, I did (based on some ideas thrown around) redefine Bytopia along these lines:
I made Bytopia the plane of both invention (Dothion side) and rugged pioneer spirit (Shurrock side)
The Shurrock side rewards people who venture into its wilds (usually to gather materials for Dothion's inventions) and those who endure hardships and dangers are rewarded by greater finds. Those who play it "too safe" in Shurrock find meager results. And while the Shurrock side may reward a lone miner panning for gold in a hard-to-access location; if someone sets up to an advanced operation to mine gold that is too organized or "too much civilization", then the occupants of this mining base will suddenly find the whole operation has been shifted over to the "civilized" side of Dothion.

While my vision doesn't improve the Dothion side; I do like what it provides for the Shurrock side:
-it WANTS to reward adventuresome spirits
-it generates environmental (difficult terrains, bad weather) and opponents (challenging monsters) to actually prove that the seeker/PC is "worthy"
-it prevents one from getting lazy (if you turn a mining site into a business, you're bound to find the whole site magically shifted to the "civilized" side of the plane (Dothion)
-of course, once a mining operation from Shurrock shifts to a location in Dothion (with no resources to mine); the occupants of the mining site are apt to leave which can ironically cause the resulting ghost town to become "too wild" and shift back to Shurrock (which can lead to adventures, as someone might hire the PCs to find his son who was poking around the Dothion ghost town when it shifted back to the Shurrock side with all the dangers inherent to that wilderness)
-Adventure idea: just because the settlement was deemed “too civilized” for Shurrock, it doesn’t mean that everyone/thing in it is civilized. Perhaps some wild beast (who was digging through their trash) got shifted to Dothian along with the settlement and it’s now rampaging (either due to being frightened by the new surroundings or due to the easy picking on the Dothion layer)
-This might partially explain the "We don't like adventurers" attitude (at least on the Dothion side) as locals might feel that if too many devil-may-care hire-swords gather in their town, the whole think might shift to the wilds of Shurrock and all of its challenges

I don't have any suggestions for improving the gnomish-ness of the Dothion side; but I'm open to ideas

Palomides
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Paragraphs?

Anyone know why I can't format paragraphs? I even tried the "p" HTML tag and it is still all one big blob

Clueless
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Lemme see what's going on in

Lemme see what's going on in here... everything you've got Should be working.

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There we go! Looking much

There we go! Looking much better now :)

Quickleaf
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Principle of trade

@Clueless Yep, looks like bbcode is working now. Thanks! EDIT: Hmm, I noticed the space after a list isn't registering, seems to be a bbcode trouble.

@Palomides Thanks for kicking us off. I broke down my post into a couple parts:

  • Bytopian Land Exchanges
  • Big Theme: Principle of Trade
  • Mediation
  • Merchant Priests
  • Twins & Parallels

Bytopian Land Exchanges (...Earthfalls?)
The idea that the two layers are in a long-term process of exchanging land is intriguing. I do think it shouldn't be a common event, because that might be a little too chaotic/disruptive; when an exchange happens it shouldn't immediately imperil lives and there should be some sort of meaning or lesson to it. At least IMHO.

I've been imagining how land exchanges might look, and what I keep coming up with is a great forest uprooting itself and the trees, treehouses, and even animals lifting into the sky surrounded by flights of birds in some sort of celestial parade thru clouds. I picture a gnome logger guiding a group of Planewalkers who have handaxes and climbing tools dug into a clumped cluster of trees as the ride the land exchange (hmm, need a new name for that...Earthfalls?) thru the sky.

There is definitely a powerful nature force at work, something equivalent to a cross between a storm and the aurora borealis, but it's more awe-inspiring than devastating. On a clear day, observers of the Earthfall would see the floating lands fall down (or fall up) to the center-line of gravity, then slowly tilt in a 180 until they descended at a slow pace. There would be plenty of time for people and animals to get out of the way, and in most cases wouldn't need to since the innate good nature of the plane steers the Earthfalls to sites where they would cause very little damage.

Those underneath the general area of the Earthfall might experience rain, hail, or unusual matter falling from the sky (though it wouldn't endanger life or property) before the Earthfall landed an hour later. A person in the midst of the Earthfall might be in some danger if they were evil, foolish, or caught unaware, but those who are prepared or good won't be harmed (it will seem like providence saved them for being crushed). Immediately upon landing, the Earthfall would begin integrating into the new terrain, and in most cases like terrain would attract like terrain, so a mountain falling on top of a forest would be extremely unlikely. So tree roots would sink into new soil, water features would connect with existing ones, animals would begin interacting, and the "seam" where new land met old would become a natural "ecotone" (an ecological border zone critical to life, e.g. an estuary).

The land exchanges between Dothion and Shurrock gives another interpretation to the Spires that connect the two layers: that they're the byproduct of old sites which transferred between the layers many times until they stacked up and met in the center. IIRC the previous interpretations of Bytopia's spires were that they either held the layers apart so they didn't collide into each other (paralleling Egyptian sky & earth deities as separated lovers) or bound the layers together so they didn't tear apart to form some entirely different structure to the plane or perhaps split the plane in two. Personally I like the latter two as myths that might be told by certain cultures on Bytopia, but the one I just came up with as a "scientific" explanation.

Big Theme: Principle of Trade
Ok, here's MY big idea for Bytopia...

The idea that stands out to me is Exchange, whether it is of ideas or culture or services or goods. Your idea about the land exchanges between Bytopia's Twin Paradises illustrates this nicely. Whereas on the Outlands and Sigil it's more laissez-faire, on Bytopia's contrasting mirror plane Gehenna it is about exploitation, and on Bytopia's oppositional plane Carceri there reallly isn't any exchange (due to isolation/paranoia), on Bytopia the belief is that Every exchange can benefit both parties equally.

An Outlander would be skeptical of this belief, and might either appreciate having an honest business partner for a change or mark up their goods 15-20% to take advantage of the sucker. A Gehenna native would laugh at this principle as naive and claim that the Bytopia deserves to be exploited. A Carceri native would be convinced the Bytopian was out to trick him of life and/or property.

Three interesting things come out of using this as Bytopia's driving principle: Mediation, Merchant Priests, and Twins.

Mediation
The average Bytopian would approach any exchange as an opportunity to improve their life, but also the life of their trading partner, and ideally the rest of the community (or their respective communities). That is amazing when you think about it, and would be a breath of fresh air! :) However, no one said this ideal would be easy to uphold. Actually, it could be quite challenging and despite the best of intentions there could be conflict about how to achieve a happy compromise or how to best derive benefit for all from a particular exchange. So you have the ideal, and then the skill to implement it.

That skill I'm dubbing Mediation. The average petitioner would be better than most living folks, but it would be proxies and other paragons who were the master Mediators. I see this as a great niche for Bytopia, perhpahs with an official Mediation School, and with the Bytopian version of an "adventurer" being professional respected Mediators traveling by horseback to resolve disputes about exchanged ideas, cultures, goods, or services, and find a solution that benefits everyone. Also, a great adventure hook for PCs!

Merchant Priests
In ancient Egypt (and probably other cultures) there was a sacred order of men called Merchant Priests, much as how architecture was considered a sacred profession then. The idea is that these Merchant Priests understood the exchange of goods and services, ideas and cultures, as an expression of spiritual energy. It's not "dirty money", it's "money as an expression of spirit." The Merchant Priests would enter an economically struggling community and thru mysticism and plain old being friendly they'd tune into the current spiritual state of the people there, diagnosing spiritual deficiencies or excesses much as a doctor might. Then the Merchant Priest would perform an economic intervention best suited to the Community's needs, such as a new spice or goats. Basically they were adventurers who used economic means to drive out egative influences on trade, but with an awareness of using resources for the good of all.

True, the reality of ancient Egypt definitely was not so idealistic as I've painted it in my New Age-y way, but that idea to me is so compelling and fits Bytopia's theme of Every exchange benefits all involved perfectly. These Merchant Priests could be any cleric native to Bytopia, proxies, or even a specific race (e.g. the "air sentinel" always seemed like it belonged on the Elemental Plane of Air not Bytopia, and it didn't serve any purpose besides "saving travelers", so it would certainly be a candidate for being replaced!).

Twins & Parallels
Someone came up with the idea that twinning should be a Bytopian theme, e.g. of a Bytopian petitioner with two bodies, each living on a different layer so they could enjoy anything they missed out on in life, but sharing the same soul. I think it's a terrific concept! Obviously, we wouldn't want needless symmetry or to use the idea or excess, but it dovetails nicely with the theme Every trade benefits all involved. If the twins have similar needs, then fulfilling them should be relatively easy, and if they have different needs then that's an opportunity for exchange. Also, a twinned being might have an intuitive sense of what the other side needs in an exchange, making them excellent Mediators.

Whew, that's all I've got for now :)

Palomides
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First Impressions

You went in a different direction than I did; but since I'm all about encouraging people to run with their ideas, let's stick with yours for now.

I agree that the land exchanges shouldn't be an everyday occurrence. Personally, I hadn't pictured the exchange as an observable phenomenon; I was viewing it more as, the residents wake up one morning to find that their surroundings had changed (although, I wish I had thought of the aurora borealis effect, as that somehow seems very appropriate to the plane)
But if we keep a literal physical shift of land, I also agree that there shouldn't be any dangers involved (well, maybe if some idiot is jumping around the edge while the land shifts, but no one should be endangered by a large plot of land dropping on them like they were the Wicked Witch of the East)

When I first saw the word "trade" in your block, I was turned off by it because a) trade seems more neutral to me and b) rather than making the plane more exotic/unique; I feared that this line of though would just turn Bytopia into a giant supermarket (which is the last thing it needs).
But when I read the detail, I found that I did like what you pictured. Sort of like the John Nash theorem (from "A Dangerous Mind" as I'm not an economist and don't know his actual work) where everyone wins (to a slightly lesser extent) if they consider the motives of the entire group and don't turn all cutthroat in an attempt to try to attain the maximum individual goal (which might become impossible if everyone gets cutthroat - e.g. everyone wants a big piece of cake, but if they fight over it and knock the cake on the floor, no one wins).

But where it breaks down for me is that I don't see what the residents trade that is unique (or at least unusual) that would make one want to visit the plane. IMO, there has to be something that sets it apart from Tradegate in the Outlands or from the market in Sigil.
Yes, the deals might be better (or at least less likely to be a con); but that in and of itself isn't enough.

I guess the same holds true of the twin theory. I find it a little intriguing that there are two linked souls working on different aspects of a mutually beneficial goal. But since I don't see what the two layers mean to you, and how they interact; I can't visualize how the two twins would work. I don't mean this to be an insulting rebuttal; I just need some more specifics to make this component work for me.

Quickleaf
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Yep, your example of John

Yep, your example of John Nash's theorem against traditional game theory is exactly the feel I was going for. For a lot of people in western nations it might seem like a foreign idea, but as I illustrated with the Merchant Priests, "spiritual/enlightened commerce" is a very old idea. I'd guess you could see Bytopia as some kind of capitalist utopia governed by enlightened self-interest (in the Alexis de Tocquerville sense).

Bytopian maxims would include: Do well by doing good & Honest work brings rewards.
In business today there is a concept called the Triple Bottom Line (people, planet, profit), and that strikes me as the sort of attitude the average Bytopian might have.

I saw my thoughts as connecting or spring boarding off of the setup you elaborated: Dothion as invention-themed, and Shurrock as rugged frontier-themed. I like that because the need for exchange is built into the nature of the plane.

As far as trade goods, Planes of Conflict outline several mundane goods:
Superbly woven cloth (Dothion)
Woodcrafts (Dothion)
Foodstuffs (Dothion)
Leather goods (Dothion)
Windmills, water wheels, and other pre-Industrial infrastructure (Dothion)
Domesticated animals (Dothion)
Gnomish inventions (Dothion)
Timber (Shurrock)
Stone (Shurrock)
Ores (Shurrock)
Gems (Shurrock)
Metal-work (Shurrock, but under our interpretation fits Dothion better)
Hot air balloons, cargo spheres (both layers?)

Personally, I find this list lackluster because your think every plane had their own unique versions of most of these goods. And they don't feel fantastically planar, but like any prime world. So I think there is a need to make up new Bytopian trade goods for sure!

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What's Needed & Synergy Quests

This is probably more demonstrative of a lack of creativity on my part; but I’m having trouble on this topic.
Going back over my old list of desirable features when designing a plane:
*General theme of the plane – we seem to be stumbling towards something like “applying the efforts of hard work, innovation, and adventuresome pioneer spirit towards mutually beneficial goals” (although I’m open to other suggestions – and it would probably add to the creativity if we include something else)

*Unique landscape – done

*Conflict within the plane – Trade guilds? Inventions/production competition? Friendly one-upmanship? None of these seem terribly “planar” to me; but I can’t think of anything better

*Representative species – there are gnomes; and I’m certain there is something in the official products; but nothing so distinctive that it really stands out as really representative (like devils for Baator, or even crazed Vikings for Ysgard).
Preferably the species should embody one or more themes of the plane. But what sort of being embodies “friendly competition”?

*Reason(s) for PCs to visit – aside from adventure hooks that could be used to draw PCs to any location (e.g. we need to find a specialized sage), I can’t think of anything good here. More than anything, this is what the plane needs most (IMO)
--------------------------------------------------------
While I don’t think this is enough in and of itself, I was going back to the twins theme for additional flavor. If we keep the theme of co-operative game theory, I could see that when a PC makes a trade in Bytopia, he will get his goods plus a “gift” from the trader (played off like a “baker’s dozen” – a little extra something to maintain good relations) but this gift would be something of seemingly little worth to the PC. But later on, the item would EXACTLY what the PC needed.
For example, the merchant might throw in some extra rope in addition to the lumber (already securely tied) “just in case something breaks”. But then on the way home, the PC finds a little boy that has fallen down a well and the extra length of rope is exactly the length needed to rescue the child. Which may, in turn, lead to a reward or (ideally) a spiritual experience. E.g. the villagers are so happy that you rescued what turns out to be the mayor’s son; that they throw a banquet in his honor and/or provide a clue to find something for which the PC has been questing .
Another twist on this could be that the item given isn’t of much use until one goes to the other layer of Bytopia. Then an encounter will occur with the spirit-twin of the original trader where the seemingly useless item will prove helpful. Then the spirit-twin also gives something that (once you return to the original layer and go through some encounter that activates it) combines with the original item to produce something genuinely useful and desirable for the PC
Like I said, I don’t think this would play out as a recurring theme (as I know my PCs would quickly tire of these multi-part, mini-quests); but I could see it being used once or twice in a campaign

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I'm just going to dump my

I'm just going to dump my thoughts and see if anything comes of it:

How about Bytopia as the land of travelers and circuses? In canon, it seems cast as a very serious and dour "Anybody who's not working isn't being serious enough" plane, which seems to go against Bytopia as the plane of tricksters. Bytopia strikes me as the sort of place where the people can appreciate the joys of hard work and the joys of taking some time off to relax and enjoy life.

The settlements scattered across Dothian, it seems to me, would welcome an outsider with open arms rather than shun them or cast disapproving looks in their direction. More likely, they'd press whoever was visiting to tell them stories about their travels. Traveling circuses would be even more tempting, allowing petitioners to witness sights that they've never had a chance to see before.

How about Dothian and Shurrock being the higher planes for each other. Petitioners who initially start on Dothian ascend by letting go of their homebody tendencies to go on adventures in Shurrock. On the other hand, Shurrock-starting petitioners ascend by deciding to let got of their wilder tendencies and settle down. The leaving/arrival of somebody from/to a community could mark a great celebration on the part of the natives.

I'm not trying to present an "Any excuse for a party" atmosphere, just that these are people who know when to celebrate and when to work.

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I like the "circus"

I like the "circus" environment as additional flavor (as I agree that the plane was too dour as originally written); but I can't see it as a major theme. I think we still need something that gets us and our players excited about Bytopia

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More thoughts

@Wicke Circuses sound pretty close to what I was thinking: the Chattaqua, a movement from the late19th century & early 20th century America: groups of merchants, storytellers, entertainers, craftsmen, educators and political speakers would travel to locations to rural locations and there was a big hullabaloo :) Basically, similar to a circus, but with less emphasis on "over the top wow entertainment" and more on "exchanging ideas, goods, and services in a jovial atmosphere." I agree that there would be less of a "suspicious of adventurers & look down on them" vibe than the core books suggest....Maybe a better way is express it is: A Bytopian will certainly welcome you into his home for the night for a meal and a place to sleep, but if you want more from him you're going to need to exchange something. In the process of being friendly, the Bytopian is likely to make some jokes about 'adventures being layabouts and ne'er do wellers stirring things up. Might try to convince you to stay on at his farm for a season chopping wood or hint that he knows a pretty gnome lass who is eligible for marrying, or some other thing to guide you to setting down roots. I think it's the more mercenary neutral or evil aligned adventurers who would get the suspicious looks and such.

@Palomides Your 5 necessary features for Planar Renovation Project are great, thanks for reposting those. Here's my take on them so far...

General Theme 1: "A Coin is a Gift" or "Principled Trade." Thru enlightened self-interest, exchange with others in an upward spiral that benefits everyone. No compromise is needed, only staying aware that a coin represents so much more than metal, it represents an exchange of ideas, cultures, friendships, and spiritual energy.
General Theme 2: "Harmony with our natural resources." I'm still figuring this one out. On the Beastlands, you have the ultimate in conservation - lands untouched by mortals - and every thing in nature is anthropomorphized or imbued with a living spirit. Shift over to the Lawful side a bit, an on Bytopia you have the ultimate in preservation - lands responsibly stewarded by mortals - and everything in nature seems to serve mortals purposes without specific intelligence but some overarching providence. For example, Bytopians would know the meaning of birdsongs, would be into Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, would scoff at a Druid getting agro about "don't cut down my trees", and would have businesses that utilized their waste streams so as not to despoil the Twin Paradises.

Unique Landscape: Done.

Conflict:

  • Loggers vs. Dryads or Treants (or a similar corollary for any Nature spirits).
  • Traditionalist craftsmen vs. Inventors
  • Rival bards
  • Baku vs. Expanding Communities
  • Short-term vs. Long-term view of a trade (what seems like a bad deal to someone short-sighted may be a very good deal in the long run, and on the planes a species' age could factor in)
  • Gnomish tricksters vs. Everyone
  • Self vs. False Understanding (fighting one's own impulses toward greed, clannishness, or stagnant thinking)
  • Aid Organizations (Merchant Priests) debating over which needy community to send limited aid to
  • Planar Trade Consortium exerting pressure from Tradegate
  • Twinned souls on different planes (one on Bytopia, the other...)
  • Traveling Merchant Priests or Mediators in sticky situations on other planes

Representative Species 1: I have 3 thoughts. First, the Arcane (blue skinned giants from PSMC2, later named Mercane) were never given a homeplane, and could be a good fit, though it would require reimagining their alignment from LN to NG(L), which is quite a leap that maybe sacrifices too much of their flavor.
Representative Species 2: Second, the air sentinels which guard travelers on Shurrock or those braving the spires seem really weird to me. Air genies on Bytopia? Why? The thing about them that does make sense if they can fly, and thus reach both layers. Hmm, so I think we're looking for a flying race that embodies enlightened self-interest and exchange that could be as at home in a rugged frontier as a pastoral town. I'm thinking this race would dwell in the spires or on rare bits of floating land trapped on the gravity horizon between the two planes.
Representative Species 3: What about Agathinon, the Aasimon warriors who appear as opalescent luminous elves in their natural form but can shapeshifter into any creature or inanimate object. What I like about this is that it means they can inhabit either layer (including weird gravity zones), you never can be sure if you're meeting one (or if one of the coins you're trading might be an Agathinon!), and in object form they can bestow powers on good or neutral wielders. Very apropos to the idea of Trade With Spiritual Benefits! Only thing is that despite their NG alignments, they are described as warriors who are stern, serious, and unyielding...

Reasons for PCs to Visit:

  • Petioning Aid Organizations (Merchant Priests) for funds for some worthy expedition
  • Talking a merchant into sending a caravan somewhere dangerous or evil
  • Helping a Bytopian out of a rotten deal struck with a dishonest merchant of the Lower Planes or Outlands
  • Study with masterful educators to learn a new craft, language, or proficiency
  • Present the party bard's ideas at the equivalent of a Chattaqua to make them gain momentum
  • Get the gnomes to identify/reverse engineer some dangerous piece of machinery or strange contraption
  • Gain a spell or technology to help with toxic waste spills, environmental remediation, or some other way to make an endeavor "more clean"
  • Teach a man to fish quests
  • See the wonders! Spires! Hot air balloons! Earthfalls! The Floating Forest of Nerember!
  • Help an exile of Elysium or Mt. Celestia cope with pastoral/pioneer life
  • Recruiting help from anti-slavery Underground Railroad type organization
  • Trade...with benefits :) (though I still think we need some more fantastical distinctly Bytopian trade goods)
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Minor Additions

You listed “twinned souls” under “Conflict on the Plane”. I hadn’t considered this possibility; but it made me immediately think of the Jungian “shadow”.
For those unfamiliar with the term, the shadow is a figure in your dreams (or myths, etc.) that represents the less dominant aspects of your personality (e.g. if you are an introvert, your shadow will probably be an extroverted figure). But if you try to ignore or repress these impulses, the shadow usually re-emerges in a more destructive form (e.g. if you were raised to believe that sex is evil, then a normal physical attraction to someone might get repressed and then come back in some weird, disturbing way)
So if the plane represents getting the two halves of your psyche in harmony; you could use the dangers of various “shadow” threats (not talking about the wispy undead) to create some adventures

I think we should still work on some candidates for “common” natives. But I kind of like the idea of some off-shoot/proto-species of the aarakocra that occupy the middle ground (middle air?) but spend a great deal of time moving between the two layers, facilitating communication between individuals (possibly spirit-twins). I could also see them providing cryptic hints and spiritual “nudging” to motivate PCs into various situations (kind of in the spirit of “the Dungeon Master” from the old D&D cartoon show – if anyone else is old enough to remember that). So not a holier-than-thou angel figure, but a helpful agent with a dash of roguishness to him that if you listen to him, might lead you to something rewarding

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Representative Species (Bytopia)

@Palomides Out of curiosity, what were some of the Representative Species that you came up with for the PRP, for example for Limbo or Arcadia or Pandemonium?

I think Aaracockra makes a fine choice, and agree with you that there should be a bit of an enigmatic guide aspect to them (good old Dungeon Master! And Uni!). I did some more brainstorming since suggesting Agathinon as potential natives, and I think Spirits of the Air might be well suited with a bit of adaptation (e.g. neutral > neutral good, changed backstory). I always thought the Spirits of the Air had a very creative origin but one that was hard to apply to an actual game.

However, one thing you notice about major planar races like Modrons, Archons. Guardianals, Eladrin, Slaadi, Gehreleths, Tanar'ri, Baatezu, Yugoloths, and Rilmani is that they come in multiple forms at multiple levels of power.

The more I look at what we've outlined for a representative Bytopian species, I think we'll need to either adapt some old Fiend Folio or 2e monter that has gone overlooked, or else create an entirely new monster:

  • Embody honest trade and exchange, enjoy song, don't mind enjoying fruits of their labor (an honest gypsy?)
  • Seek the middle ground or "best of both worlds", mediators, very shrewd but also scrupulous/society-minded merchants (merchant priests?)
  • They can fly to access both layers and to represent their dual pioneer/pastoral natures (craftsmen-rangers ?)
  • Dualism may be an innate trait of the species, so maybe they are all born with a soul bond to another of their species, or rarely an outsider species
  • Multiple varieties/sub-species (perhaps could tie into the dualism aspect)
  • They are opposed to slavery and exploitation in any form (underfund railroad?)

Summary: "Caravan Angels", fly, musicians, embody honest trade/exchange of goods services cultures ideas, seek "best of both worlds", opposed to slavery & exploitation, merchant priests, union leaders, mediators, "caravan angels", dual/twin nature

Quickleaf
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Ring-givers

As a quick aside, the Ring-givers sect from Planes of Chaos (Ysgard) might make a more sensible fit for this "enlightened commerce" view of Bytopia.

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Answered curiosity

Out of curiosity, what were some of the Representative Species that you came up with for the PRP, for example for Limbo or Arcadia or Pandemonium?
Quick answer:
Limbo: salad and githzerai
Arcadia: formians and Hardheads
Pandemonium: aside from the madmen, I went with the themes of madness and added some Chthulic type monsters

But the reality is that I'm just having a hard time finding a hook that really works for me for this plane. I think we have some great things for additional flavoring; but still not something that really makes the plane stand out as interesting. So I jumped on the idea that if we found a good representative "native", it might generate ideas for the plane (although, I usually work in reverse and come up with a feel for the plane and then a native species usually suggests itself)

I keep thinking of the overhaul done for Arcadia. On that thread, the idea of competing visions of Utopia was suggested; and suddenly that got my mind racing with all the possibilities and conflicts that that would generate. None of the groups were evil; they just had very specific goals that sometimes conflict with the goals of other groups

By contrast, Bytopia is still just a "nice" place. I'm not saying that I want to introduce full war on the plane. But any place where residents just stroll around for eternity being content comes across as dull (from an adventure-generating point of view - which is why Dante's "Inferno" is so much more well known than his "Paridisio")

I have liked many of the suggestions here; but they come across as more individual, spiritual hooks (which are good things to have) but I'm stumbling about for something interesting (to me) regarding how large groups of the residents interact. In what ways might they disagree and create conflict? Something as simple as two towns that are in a constant battle of one-up-manship to create the most impressive invention would do - with the PCs trying to help one side or the other win, trying to stop a run-away invention that got away, etc. There is no "villain" here, just some form of interaction that would get the PC involved (even if it was just making a mad dash to escape an invention or to avoid being recruited into the building project)
Given the dual nature of the plane, it seems like there should be some sort of obvious conflict, but I haven't found it yet. (Admittedly, the physical separation of the two layers does limit some of interaction/ potential conflict between these two sources, but maybe we can work out something there)

BTW: I think moving the Ring-Givers is a good suggestion. In fact, their placement in Ysgard seemed so out of place, that I honestly had forgotten it. In my own mind, I always thought of them coming from Elysium or some nearby plane (like Bytopia)

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Cloud Cuckoo Land

Now to contradict the prior post (since I consider this idea a "flavor"), I was thinking of the aaracockra/sky-spirit residents and I was thinking that instead of living on the spires that connect the layers, it might be cool to have them reside on a hidden middle mini-layer that only they can access that lies in the clouds between the two layers. I could see this Cloud Cuckoo Land representing a perfect balance between things (with the architecture of the cities being in perfect symmetry - domed building on the right side of the street, then there is a domed building on the left side of the street)

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Shadows

On the more personal level, I was also thinking back to my suggestion of "the shadow". Might it be interesting for the plane to create a shadow-spirit that acts oppositely (but not evilly) from the PCs?

For example, a thief who typically behaves selfishly/greedily (DM's judgment) might find that he is being tailed by a figure that repeatedly steals from the thief and then gives the valuable away to a needy orphan.

A fighter that intimidates and bullies, might find himself haunted by some figure that seems too powerful for the fighter to defeat. Only when the fighter tries to defend a weak individual from the same threat, does this mysterious figure/force abate

It's not perfect but its a thought

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How about developing a

How about developing a Industrialization vs. Pastoral-Life theme? Something that pits the reclusive, quiet, simple lives that the gnomes (and suchlike) live against the obvious "Bytopians are known as the best traders on the planes!" thing. In the other thread, something was mentioned about the Verdant Guild having a break-away sect on the plane that actively sought to push chunks of Bytopia from Dothian to Shurrock. Maybe expand that out into something that opposes the ever increasing drive from forces outside the plane on making demands of the hardworking craftsmen of Bytopia. Self-autonomy vs commercial pressures.

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"Nice" doesn't mean easy or dull

Dang Internet ate my post. Wish there was an auto-recovery feature here like on ENWorld!

@Palomides Don't sell the work we've done so far on Bytopia short! Just because it is a "nice place" doesn't mean that keeping it in is easy. The Twin Paradises are maintained by the hard WORK of making equitable exchanges. Reaching consensus, determining who absorbs how much risk, thinking of complicating eventualities in advance so they can be put in the contract, valuating an idea or cultural teaching in a trade so that everyone agrees its true worth is taken into account, even agreeing on what "prosperity" and "poverty" mean...these are hugely contentious and THE WORK that all Bytopians do. Sure, Bytopians are committed to doing good for themselves, their trade partners, and their respective communities, but getting all these things to line up is HARD; like threading the gravity gap between the Twin Paradises on the back of a great eagle, it's a delicate conflict that rarely can be solved by spell or sword. When Bytopians are stumped and can't see a way to a mutually beneficial resolution, thats when they need the help of outsiders with fresh perspectives the most - the Player Characters. Bytopia is more PLANESCAPE than many other planes, because here, hitting the problem with a stick ain't possible, since the problem is abstract.

I listed some good ex apples of abstract conflicts in a previous post, and @Wicke outlines a good one (pastoral vs, industrial) above.

I think Bytopian Villains would be a very rare thing, but there are some strong contenders if a DM is so inclined:

Adamantine Dragons were left as extraordinarily powerful yet with extremely vague motives that amounted to "protecting good creatures." The question is on Bytopia, protecting them from what? I think how an Adamantine Dragon answers that question (e.g. protect them from poverty) could lead them into acting as covert saviors to the unwilling, for example, for for frontiers people of Shurrock. They just want a simple life, but great scores of rare ore keep being discovered in a once exhausted mine, leading to more development (and everything that brings) and there are whispers that the Merchant Priest in town who is making sure everyone gets their fair share of the profits is a servant for an Adamantine Dragon meddling in their lives. Not the perfect example, but it does illustrate that an Adamantine Dragon should have a very defined thing they are defending against, not some abstract evil, and then take covert steps to oppose ipthat abstract principle.

The Representative Species is secretive, pursuing an agenda that requires a complex web of exchanges that span the course of centuries, millennia even. Their thinking, like their aerial lairs, is above the minds of mere mortals, and thus there is an otherworldly alienness to them. But that's only when they appear in their true forms, and not as a Personal Shadow, a common trade good, or some other assumed form. They believe in the Great Exchange, even more than individual relationships or the survival of a single business. Like a biologist wishes to preserve life at the species level, this species is the same with mutually beneficial trade. Sometimes they will help an individual aspiring toward awareness of the spirituality of commerce, but who knows what favor they'll ask in return? Sometimes they take people who owe them away (or their children), supposedly to perform a craft in their aerial lands or to the other layer to balance the Great Exchange. They are a quixotic and elusive species whose advice is layered in meanings. Perhaps they even deal with unsavory types, under the belief that ultimately their philosophy will prevail and in the long-term the trade will benefit all involved. Alternately, they may travel and act as enforcers of equitable trade, stymying less than scrupulous PCs or creating ripples in their wake that require apt he PCs to deal with. And they may go to extremesaid sacrifice to secure good outcomes, like freeing slaves, sacrifices that the people of Bytopia (or others of their kind) must pay.

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Inspirational Quotes & Movie Trailer

"The Garden", a poem excerpt by Andrew Marvell, colleague of Milton:

Such was that happy garden-state,
While man there walked without a mate:
After a place so pure and sweet,
What other help could yet be meet!
But 'twas beyond a mortal's share
To wander solitary there:
Two paradises 'twere in one
To live in Paradise alone.

Thomas More:

The Utopians, among whom all things are so well governed, and with so few laws; where virtue hath its due reward, and yet there is such an equality, that everyone lives in plenty.

"Upside Down", 2013 film
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3veONCcRWbw&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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I'm not sure if this is the

I'm not sure if this is the direction to go but it seems to be where my mind is orbiting right now.

Gehenna trades in secrets. Bytopia trades in material things. There's wealth to be found in either endeavor. Trade guilds are always springing up across the plane, as some bloods think they can do a better job than anybody else and they're *always* looking to hire adventurers as guards or as specialists in acquiring hard to find items. Each guild takes great pains to ensure that all goods acquired are done so through legitimate means. Any one who is discovered to have resorted to underhanded means is blacklisted and care is taken in ensuring that whatever was obtained is returned, even if it means trekking to the depths of the Abyss. This reputation of fairness in trade has made Bytopia the go-to plane for Upper Planar types looking to acquire goods.

Villains can come in the form of competing trade guilds/organizations. With so much potential wealth, a number of shadier types have started trying to muscle their way in with mixed results.

Edit: Also, if you want to get a feel for the character of your average Bytopian, look up On Hallowed Ground and read the Gnome and Halfling Pantheon entry. They have a belief in second chances and giving folks the benefit of the doubt (even if they know it's a bad idea).

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Ooh, and another idea

Ooh, and another idea occurred to me on the way home!

Bytopia might be seen as the plane of forgiveness and second chances. As such, maybe this Representative Species, rather than being something new, is instead a hodge-podge collection of reformed/risen fiends. It's thematically appropriate to the plane, provides tension in the form of unease coming from legitimate upper planar types, and lends itself to a variety of different types of "sub-races".

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Interdependence & Further thoughts on a species

@Wicke That sounds right to me. Bytopia's theme might be summed up as Celebrating Interdependence. This differentiates the plane from other Upper Planes (in particular the Beastlands which is more about independence), as well as exemplifies its difference from Gehenna's exploitation and Carceri's paranoia. I imagine adventures on Bytopia hinge on figuring out how to use a network of NPCs and resources in a sort of social mapping puzzle.

As a quick point, I think it's important to differentiate between conflict from other places intruding onto Bytopia & conflict built into the plane... Both types of conflict are necessary.

Representarive Species
I think if we want to adapt existing monsters that fit our criteria, we're looking at one of these three options:

  • Some sort of animal Aarakocra/Spirit of the Air hybrid. I'm not crazy about this because more animal angels, really? Why?
  • Phoenixes and phoelarchs...seems like the Phoenix's homeplane was never quite pinned down. As above, work would need to be done on the various sub-species, but the idea of second chances sounds like a good fit for a Phoenix.
  • Aasimon, or at least some of them. Normally they come from "all the Upper Planes", which is kind of cool, but Arcadia already has formian, Celestia has archons, Elysium has guardianals, Beastlands has warden beasts, Arborea has eladrin, and Ysgard has some mash-up of bariaur, giants, and lillend. Heck, the more chaotic Upper Planes even get their own unique angel - the asuras. I'm thinking the best bet for adwpting existing monsters would actually be Aasimon!

OTOH I could see a new type of "two-faced angel" modeled after biblical Seraphim (multiple wings, multiple faces, etc) with perhaps borrowing some of the ideas of the elusive Watchers from the Book of Enoch. Personally, I find this idea the most attractive since it doesn't tread on existing canon and adds something needed to the game in the form of "spirit guide" angels who you can't be sure when you're interacting with one and a long-term view.

Thoughts?

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Further thoughts on species & Adventure Sites

@Wicke You know, I could see that working for one sub-species of the Representative Species but definitely not the entire species. First, it flies in the face of canon about fiends being inherently evil creatures. And it also begs the question, what was the Representative Species before the reformed fiends? Not that it's not a compelling idea that does have place in Bytopia, but that I don't think it should be applied to the Representative Species.

Adventure Site Ideas

The Broken Mountains
Inspired by the "Upside Down" movie, what once was a spire connecting the two layers shattered in an ancient storm/conflict, leaving two peaks which enter the gravity horizon line between the layers, stopping some 100 feet or so from each other, sharing a similar ecology, and if you throw a rope from one, it falls down to the other peak. PCs could come seeking clues of the original storm/conflict, looking for the Adamantine Dragon believed to lair there, join a massive effort to "rebuild" the Spire thru terraforming, or seek to use it as a crossing point when the Representative Species closes all known spires and intercepts hot air balloons in some kind of enforced separation/quarantine situation.

Floating Forest of Nerember
An amorphous rain forest floating in the gravity horizon line, occasionally large stands of ancient trees shifting to one layer or the other, it could be one of the adopted homes of the Representative Species, the forest exists in such a state of flux between the industrial/pastoral forces and the rugged pioneer forces due to a constant tug of war between loggers (who harvest it's ultra-buoyant wood & curative sap) and industrialist gnomes who seek to establish floating towns in the forest or perhaps pilgrimage sites where Bytopians can come to know the Representative Species... or meditate on the natur eof the lane...or extract a variety of heretofore unknown natural indigents from the rare plants there. PCs could get involved on either side of the conflict, could be seeking out a sage or a rare ingredient, or could be recruited when some of the Floating Forest lands on one of the layers and the locals are apprehensive about what it will bring.

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Non-Canon

I'm not sure if we will ever reach a consensus (since it only seems to be the three of us looking at this right now), but both of you are throwing out some interesting ideas. (And some great pictures)

While this steps on the canon material, I'll share what I had for the celestial type residents. Since I thought of Bytopia (or at least half of it) as a plane of invention and industrious creativity - as opposed to the artistic creativity on the more chaotic side of the wheel - I repurposed:

-the lantern archon to be a symbolic light bulb of inspiration; making them be highly inquisitive and eager to gather and share information

-the quasar: as a constructed angel, it seemed appropriate to have them on what was (for me) a plane of invention instead of on Elysium

-I also had Prometheus wandering about the plane, encouraging people to question things and strive to improve things, cleaning up the messes created by his brother Epimetheus

I do like the idea of a Janus-faced celestial for this plane. At very least, it fits in visually with the plane

And while I can't find a place for this; I always felt that I should tie Gilgamesh and Endiku (his wild-man companion) to this plane with Gilgamesh on the Dothian side and Endiku running around in Shurrock. But couldn't think of a way to make a good story or adventure out of it

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Representative Race: Janus-Faced Seraphim?

@Wicke Sorry, didn't mean to dismiss your idea out of hand. Actually, I think it could tie into the "Janus-faced angel" idea, so each sub-species might in part be identified as giving second chances to different people, and that *who* or *what* determines the appearance of one of their faces. So you could have a fiend redeemer type with one face fiendish, and rumored to be risen fiends themselves. Actually, I think this works REALLY well and fits the Bytopian themes we've been discussing, plus it evokes real myth imagery...

I've been looking thru old 2e books for a creature that could potentially fit that look but I haven't found one yet. Also I was thinking that this dovetails really well with Old Testament depictions of Seraphim. Here are a couple images (modern and old) for inspiration:
[sblock]
http://fc00.deviantart.net/fs12/i/2006/339/d/5/Seraphim_and_Creature_4_of_4_by_ForeverMan724.jpg


[/sblock]

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Don't worry about knocking

Don't worry about knocking ideas. More than anything, these are brainstorming threads so not every idea is going to work right out of the box. I like the Janusian celestial idea. Make them into negotiators, best able to see both sides of an issue - so to speak - and come to an understanding.

Something that I've been puzzling over and haven't really come to a good conclusion to: What role does Bytopia play on the planar stage? I mean, I think we have a decent enough handle on the internal workings of the plane, but how does it interact with the rest of the planes and how do the rest of the planes view it? Really, this could be a question we could ask of all the planes, inner and outer (maybe I'll start a new thread). But, I think if we started asking this question, we might find ourselves in a better position to figure Bytopia out.

The big one for me is that it's forgotten and overlooked as unimportant. Neither the fiends nor the celestials seem to pay it any mind. No faction or sect calls Bytopia their home. Only a handful of Powers call the plane home. It occurs to me that this could entirely be by design. It's certainly in keeping with the character of the inhabitants.

Now, we could lift a page from the gnomes of Ebberon and turn Bytopians into behind-the-scenes manipulators. They put forth a diplomatic face, sending traders out across the planes. Those traders keep their ears and eyes open and try to learn as much as they can before returning home and letting their superiors hear they they've learned. This could turn Bytopia into a parallels for Gehenna, as a clearinghouse for secrets and intelligence. However, I would portray Bytopia in more of a governmental "You're not cleared for that information berk" sort of way rather than the free-for-all that Gehenna would present. Individuals could be recruited and sent on diplomatic missions, or they could be sent to sabotage shipments, armies or whatever else and one could rise through the ranks to gain more clearance.

On consideration, that's probably a little overmuch for the plane. But let's see if it sparks anything for you good folks!

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Janus-faced Mediator Angels

@Wicke Actually I think you might be onto something with trade of information & diplomacy spying being a big deal in Bytopia (though without any of the nefarious government themes). They would be gathering/sharing intel from a place of good, and still believing in second chances (though not necessarily 3rd or 4th chances!)

I thought it would be good to piece together what this race I'm proposing might look like, either as inspiration for adopting an existing race that could fit OR creating a new race from scratch (which seems more likely to me). So here goes...

Bytopian Angels
In terms of naming them, my temptation is to go with "Seraphim", borrowing from the Old Testament, since its not used yet in D&D and reflects how Archons of Mt Celestia derive loosely from those of Gnosticism. Alternately, if that's too "real world" maybe a Latin root word for "mediator" or "two-faced"? Alternately, "Diprosopus" is a rare congenital disorder of Craniosacral duplication, the term derives from Greek. Or we could go with "Janusean" which is a bit obvious (though maybe being recognizable is good), and seems to suggest a connection to Aoskar in the PS setting who is a stand-in for Janus.

They are superb mediators, invoked (or volunteering? or secretly intervening?) to intercede when Bytopians struggle to find equitable terms. This they are known for surpassing wisdom, giving "then split the baby in two" type rulings to determine whose heart is true (though they'd never do such a thing). Refuting their decisions in Bytopia is considered a breach of trust by natives. As mediators they are engaged in other planes in a diplomatic or convert way, but virtual never physically engage in battle.

They have two faces, one which appears angelic and the other which reflects that which they strive to understand, to reconcile, or to grant a second chance to. Thus this second face is sometimes disconcerting to mortals. This might grant hem certain ettin like resistances, depending on whether we conceive of them having dual minds. Perhaps they reserve speaking with their "other face" save in certain situations.

They can fly well thanks to two sets of wings, reflecting their duality, and more powerful ones may have three or four sets of wings instead or other twinned physical features or supernatural effects. As flyers their native habitat in Bytopia is in between the layers, in a gravity horizon line, either in floating land masses or within/around the spires.

Taking over the "air sentinel's" space, they act as caravan angels, occasionally aiding travelers on or near Bytopia engaged in exchange of goods, services, ideas, or cultures. However they have their own reasons for intervening in certain situations and are certainly the type to collect on a life debt (though never in an abusive manner).

As dualistic beings they are definitely candidates for the "soul twinning of form" stuff we discussed up thread.

We seem to think they should be a bit elusive or enigmatic when offering advice. Also that they may be chant-brokers par excellence.

As Bytopian exemplars, they are honest in any exchange, oppose slavery & exploitation in all forms, and probably are musically inclined. Perhaps these these themes can be further used to distinguish sub-species.

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More Adventure Sites


Oceanus Skyfalls
Why wouldn't the River Oceanus flow thru Bytopia? It's the plane of exchange and commerce, after all, and what represents that better than a river? Naturally the river has a place on both layers, serving as a ferry and shipping lane on Dothion and for transporting logs and fishing on Shurrock. Does this mean two versions of the Oceanus run, one on each layer? Not a chance. Instead, at a point shrouded in clouds, the Oceanus leaps into the sky, beginning a series of upward cascading waterfalls toward the other layer. It's surely one of the wonders of the planes. Bytopian youth zones times ride inner tubes strapped to safety balloons along portions of it, but actually using the falls to traverse the layers would be madness. PCs might need to aid delphons or other Oceanus-dwelling creatures affected when storm winds hit the falls, rare pearls of the Oceanus may become trapped in pools in the clouds, there are fabled healing pools somewhere within the falls that are said to reverse aging magic, remove curses, and restore lost memories if drunken in the right order, and daring PCs needing to move covertly between the layers might use Oceanus Skyfalls.


The Twinning Stones
I recall on the old PRP: Bytopia, hat someone postulated a planar touchstone property of Bytopia where if one completed a great productive task there that they swore an oath to complete, then a natural features would take their likeness and awaken as a clone if they should die. I was thinking that this would apply to one unique site, The Twinning Stones, which is considered sacred by the Celestials of Bytopia and possibly a nesting site for he Phoenix. Finding it is a spiritual journey and it appears on whichever layer reflects the seeker's aspirations best.

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It's not really a nefarious

It's not really a nefarious atmosphere I'm aiming towards, just trying to differentiate it from the Gehenna approach to secret trading (ie. cash for secrets). I figured getting secrets out of our hypothetical Bytopian intelligence gatherers would be more of a matter of earning their trust than in spending enough cash.

I'm digging the direction of your two-faced angels. Going with the Janusean angle, I'd imagine that some of them have some sort of prescience ability, but are unable to speak directly about what they know. Instead, they give strange advice that seemingly makes little sense at the time, but is clear in hindsight. Likewise, I could seem them handing out seemingly random items to supplicants, only for the advice seeker to find the item they were given to be critical to their success. As such, they have a reputation as being honest with whomever they deal with, but it's never clear if they're not also subtly manipulating the person who's sought them out.

My gut reaction is that they're not well respected by the rest of the celestials, mostly because of their enigmatic nature. Maybe they were associated with Aoskar at one time and his death...changed them somehow.

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Janusean angel sub-species & sketch

Yeah the idea of a Bytopian intelligence like a Bothan SpyNet (from Star Wars) sounds cool to me!

For these Janusean angels, I was thinking of some sub-species....

1. Little Ones / Choir
Appear as the classical seraph, small beings with only with two childlike angelic faces, two pairs of white wings sprouting from where it's neck would be.

They embody naive curiosity, perennial optimism, and exchange of simple gifts with unseen rewards. They are incapable of lying and must honor their debts. Their duties are to protect/guide worthy travelers, serve as elusive messengers for more powerful celestials, and share the gift of song (which sometimes hides clues). Groups of them can gather into celestial choirs with the power to compel an evil creature to fulfill its end of a bargain or banish evil-doers from Bytopia.

Probably 3-4 HD, equivalent power to a Spinagon Baatezu.

2. Market Watchers / Abolitionists / Redeemers
Appear as human men and women (transgender too probably) with multiple skin tones, two pairs of wings with coloration similar to birds of prey, and two faces: one angelic human, the other repulsive (e.g. shrunken and withered, fiendish, contorted in perpetual negative emotion). In addiiton, they can assume the form of an inanimate magic object, much as an agathinon aasimon can.

They embody the belief that all people can make the right choices, that all people should be free to on equal footing, and that even the worst of us can be redeemed. On Bytopia their duties include keeping markets honest, keeping negative market forces at bay, guarding portals, and serving as personal spiritual guides. On other planes their duties include breaking slave operations and escorting liberated slaves to Bytopia if they so desire, arranging for sanctuary for good-aligned exiles of other planes, intervening when exploitation gives a trader an unfair advantage (particularly when Bytopian merchants are involved), and serving as covert guardian angels for individuals who are their "personal redemption projects."

Probably 6-8 HD, equivalent power to an Erinyes Baatezu.

3. Mediators / Spies
In their native form they appear as human men and woman with opalescent skin like mother of pearl, milky eyes that make them appear blind, and three pairs of wings, two on their back and one extending from their upper chest. Typically these wings are dusky colored, like ash gray, dirty white with a hint of purple, or pale russet brown. Their 2 faces include an angelic face and another face that they almost always keep under a cloak hood or veil, a face that looks identical to whomever they are currently negotiating with. In addition, this face is seen differently by different observers, the mind projecting a person whom they have strong emotions toward onto the celestial's hidden face. It is said a person who is true of heart who gazes upon the unveiled hidden face with no dark desires in their heart will attain enlightenment. As spies, they should have some kind of disguise/shapechanging powers.

They embody the hard path of consensus building, the work and skill required to achieve Win-Win scenarios, and knowledge being the best way to fight the paradigm of "many must lose so that a few may win" or "we can't all be winners" (e.g. exploitation, greed, paranoia, and isolation). On Bytopia they are well regarded for mediating hard to solve disputes, and serve as an emergency force in the event of inter-layer conflict or hazards, such as the crumbling of an old spires. Likewise they are valued as mediators off Bytopia, though always with a wary eye since their reputation as "invisible spies" precedes them. On and off Bytopia they manage networks of spies and information gatherers (celestials, petitioners, planars, and others), making them masterful chant-brokers.

Probably 9-12 HD, equivalent in power to a Cornungon Baatezu.

4. Merchant Priests / Rulers
They appear as large vaguely humanoid beings, with four pairs of wings, and a powerful aura of peace. They have two faces, one old and fashioned of a precious material that take time to gain value (amber, diamond, ivory), the other youthful and fashioned of a valuable metal (gold, silver). At times, they can appear as a formless thing with multiple arms, hands, eyes, all a flurry of wings, but as this form is overwhelming for many creatures they do not commonly assume it. Probably have an unobtrusive "hermit" or "kindly merchant" form they can assume.

They embody the idea of spirituality in commerce, providence when one deals right with one's fellow man, the idea of people-profit-planet, all good things in balance, and the power of gold for good. On Bytopia they rule from aeries hidden in the gravity horizon line, such as cloud castles, islands in the Oceanus Skyfalls, aeries in the Floating Forest of Nerember, temples in the Broken Mountains, or small settlements near the center of the Spires. Unlike other leader-type planar races, they enjoy traveling and do make personal appearances when it is called for, usually to engage in the politics of planar economics, to provide financing for a noble cause, or to keep an impoverished community from collapse with a flood of trade. However, their aid is never free and they always collect on a debt. Likewise, their gifts are often not understood when given because they have a form of prescience though are forbidden for speaking about what they foresee; but these gifts always end up being useful in unexpected ways and may impart spiritual gifts to the worthy. Sort of an item creation and fate bending power in one.

Probably 12-15 HD, equivalent to an Amnizu Baatezu.

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A vision suddenly strikes me.

A vision suddenly strikes me. The aforementioned situation where an obtained object is returned to its rightful owner. The group sent to do so is accompanied by one of the Market Watcher Janusians, wherein the Market Watcher is the one ordered to ensure the safe arrival of the object and to supplicate itself before the wronged party. This is done in the interest of returning the item and apologizing, as well as keeping their eyes open for any individuals in need of rescuing from wherever they end up.

I could see a strange industry developing wherein people are hired to steal things, just so they could be returned, giving the Janusians a legitimate reason to take a trip to the lower plane. Maybe it would be more like: Hear of some unjustice on a plane; hire somebody to do some other wrong that prompts an apology; covertly correct the injustice while there.

It seems to me that going forth into the planes under legitimate pretenses and covertly righting the wrongs they find while out is a very Bytopian thing to do. It feels very slight-of-hand'y and gnomish.

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That's a real exciting idea!

That's a real exciting idea! Using a diplomatic invitation as cover to right wrongs covertly (and having arranged for the diplomatic invitation to be extended in the first place!) sounds like just the sort of scrupulous cunning a Bytopian should have. It's the sort of "keeping everyone guessing" idea that sort of parallels yugoloths, only an Upper Planar version.

I am wondering if the anti-slavery angle should be deemphasized? That seems more like a Chaotic Good thing and well suited to the Eladrin. Though I'm struggling to reconcile Eladrin as Representative Arboreans when they seem so fey-like and the Plane of Faerie is definitely a thing in D&D now.

I am looking up potential names for the 4 sub-species of Janusean Angel (maybe call them Seraphim?), and will post some 5th edition stats at some point. My temptation is to look at Jewish angelic hierarchy for inspiration: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_angelic_hierarchy

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Something that I'm surprised

Something that I'm surprised hasn't been hit on yet: Craft guilds. There's been talk about trading guilds and all that might follow in their wake, but how would the people actually crafting things organize themselves? I know in canon it's an entire series of cottage industries, but craft guilds were rather important in medieval society. You could have guilds in the same industry competing against one another for new members, competing for trade rights with the various merchant guilds and companies, sending out requests for Shurrockian prospectors and surveyors. There's a whole range of potential adventuring opportunities lurking there.

Wicke
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Adventure seed idea: Master

Adventure seed idea: Master carpenter, Jamlamin Hollysharp, has heard tell of the exquisite wood grain of a specific variety of tree that only grows on [insert lower plane] and he wishes to craft a masterpiece that incorporates the material. Or, at least that's what the official story is. The party has been hired to accompany Master Hollysharp, an Upper Planar agent of some note, to [lower plane] to stop [nefarious lower planar plot], while maintaining the guise of negotiating for enough wood for the masterpiece.

Quickleaf
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Re: Craft Guilds

I absolutely think these have a place in Bytopia. In the Middle Ages their purpose was to create a "closed shop" or a monopoly on craft & trade in their particular good (e.g. cobblers or shipwrights). While the effect might be similar, I would see Bytopian trade guilds as existing to ensure a charter and its standard of conduct was upheld - the Principles of their Craft, if you will. Provide quality product. Don't cheat. Don't seek exorbitant profit. Don't rely on exploitative labor. Conceivably these charters could be exceedingly high standards of ethical conduct compared to the other planes, makin for good adventure hooks. Anyone trading in the good with Bytopians/thru Bytopia without the Craft Guild's permission would be fined (as enforced by Craft Guild agents or allied Janusean Angels).

Other things Craft Guilds did in the Middle Ages was provided protection to caravans & served as a family-like support system if anyone got sick or fell on hard times. "Us cobblers need to stick together!" That all sounds appropriate for Bytopia too. The line between Craft Guild and Trade Guild is a bit blurred here though when you get to the question: who pays for the caravan guards?

The one thing I see Bytopian Craft Guilds doing that you didn't see in the Middle Ages is trying to influence policies about their trade good in other regions outside their home (Bytopia). So each Craft Guild might see a "brotherhood/sisterhood of cobblers", for example, uniting all cobblers everywhere, the immoral ones just don't realize it yet.

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Now that's an interesting

Now that's an interesting idea... A planes-wide network of Bytopian-aligned/sympathetic craftspeople. Wherever civilizations arise, there will always be a call for certain craft professions and everybody knows the best ones are trained on Bytopia. Prospective apprentices are tested throughout their training, to see if they qualify for "additional" techniques (ie. observational methods, diplomacy, techniques for lying effectively and other bits of diplomatic/spy work).

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Ni'iaths: opinions on a dangerous flying fish

I was looking at the creatures native to Bytopia: petitioners (many gnomes), adamantine dragons, baku, ethyks, hollyphant, Treants, and (probably) dire animals on Shurrock. Plus dvati (from Dragon 217) as suggested in the old thread. And plus the "Janusean Angels" we've been discussing. It may not be as much as you'd find on other planes, but I think it's just enough to be interesting.

And there are these critters: Ni'iaths. (see link)

And man I do not know what to make of them. What do you all think? Should they stay as oddball unaligned flying predators? Should we give some thought as to their origins (Oceanus predators that learned to fly? Gnomish experiments?)? Should we tweak or adapt them to better fit the plane's theme? Or should we ignore them entirely as poorly suited to Bytopia?

More broadly, do you think we need more native creatures?

Wicke
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Don't forget the array of

Don't forget the array of "Big Animals" that also inhabit the plane. It wouldn't hurt to develop a richer creature/monster palette to draw on for the plane though.

How about a variety of escaped and erratic constructs from various gnomish endeavors? Imagine the party fighting some wild gnomish fighting/farming machine with multiple limbs, each wielding a different weapon/tool. Or an out of control flying apparatus, where the party needs to destroy the machine without hurting the gnome trapped inside.

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Towards a Renovated Bytopia

Yes, dire animals would definitely belong on Shurrock, good catch. I love the idea of gnomish inventions running amok, as it really lends fire to the traditionalist vs. innovator conflict we mentioned.

So I thought I'd take a moment to recap what we've come up with so far...

THE TWIN PARADISES OF BYTOPIA


Neutral Good (Lawful)

Bytopia is the spiritual home for idealists who choose good of their own will, who found virtue in enjoying the honest work of their own hands, and whose works strengthened the community. The Principle of Trade guides these kindly souls, the belief that in every exchange everyone can benefit equally to increase the good of all. Others might see Bytopians as naive, but they're quick to point out the short-sightedness of those who try to get ahead at others' expense. While they're unlikely to give handouts, Bytopians will give a man an axe to chop wood for a hot meal and a roof over his head. The people here have a dual nature: tough and loving, working hard and playing hard. Their leisure time is filled with wholesome pursuits like playing music, learning languages, "star" gazing, talking story while enjoying pipe weed or a bit of whiskey, floating down the Oceanus in canoes, or swapping tales with strong morals around the campfire. Above all, Bytopians look forward to Tradesmeets where their passions for work and soulful leisure combine; Bytopian Tradesmeets draw colored caravans from across the Upper Planes and beyond in what resembles a mix of circus, market, and maker's fair, gathering political speakers, philosophers, masters craftspeople, inventors, teachers of every ilk, merchants, and entertainers for days of exchanging goods, services, and ideas.

Dualism is also a fundamental part of Bytopia's structure, for the two layers of the plane are arranged like book covers connected by mountainous spires. Dothion is the layer of pastoral life, light industry, and invention, whereas Shurrock is the layer of the rugged frontier, primitive life and resource extraction. Each layer has its own gravity, geography, and unique culture, though they share the same mysterious light and darkness cycle which emanates from the gravity horizon line between the layers with a resonate almost hymn-like sound. At night, a dweller on Shurrock looks up to see countless "stars", actually the light of forges and homes on Dothion, while at night a Dothion dweller looks up to see a dark expanse with precious few "stars." When a site on Shurrock becomes over-developed, or a site on Dothion is abandoned to the wilds, over time that site will dislodge itself to float into the sky, across the gravity horizon, and down to the other layer where it more properly belongs; rather than being terrifying disasters, such "Earthfalls" are a majestic thing to behold, surrounded by rain, hail, deep resonant sounds, and flocks of celestial doves, strange aurora borealis lights filling the sky as the lands ascend into the clouds from one layer, only to descend from the clouds on the other layer. Traversing the layers is quite a journey, as travelers must ascend a spire, orient themselves as the gravity reorients, and then descend the spire to the new layer. All while dealing with altitude and weather. Because of the perils of travel, trade between the two layers often occurs thru hot air balloons carrying cargo or thru rare gates connecting the Twin Paradises.

Getting There: Tradegate, Bytopia's gate-town, has a curious gate: a body must make a deal with a large enigmatic bariaur named Master Trader; his deals are notoriously complex and tailored to individuals, but once complete cause the gate to open for the deal-makers. The River Oceanus flows thru Shurrock in a series of sidewinding canyons from Mount Celestia, then ascends into the sky via the Oceanus Skyfalls before resuming gently thru Dothion before spilling into Elysium. Caverns also hold gates to Mount Celestia (marked by glowing concentric circles), Elysium (marked by glowing radiating lines), and the Outlands (marked by glowing spiderweb patterns). Portals to Bytopia are likely to be found in gnomish workshops, in good-aligned communities where work is its own reward, in craft or trade guild offices, and any place that embodies positive exchange between people and cultures. Portal keys include mirrors, merchant scales, or coins crafted on Bytopia, a specific type of item crafted by the traveler's own hand, reciting a Bytopian trade maxim from the book Principles of Planar Trade by Karlin, a day's hard-earned wages and whistling, blowing smoke from pipeweed into the portal, or singing a song in praise of the Twin Paradises.

Native Inhabitants & Petitioners: Seraphim, two-faced many-winged celestials, are native to Bytopia, dwelling in the gravity horizon line between the plane's layers in villages carved from rock at the center of the spires, floating castles in the clouds, and aerial hermitages in rare chunks of land trapped in the null gravity zone. Other native creatures include adamantine dragons (Shurrock), baku (Shurrock), dire animals (Shurrock), dvati (both), ethyks (both), hollyphant (both), ni'iaths (gravity horizon), and treants (both). Petitioners include a variety of pastoral laborers, inventors, and gnomes on Dothion, while rugged frontier folk and primitive people dwell on Shurrock; they are industrious to a fault, yet enjoy exchanging stories, goods, and just about anything else. Craft and trade guilds have a particularly strong presence on the plane, and are well regarded throughout the planes for honest quality work; several of the guild high-ups, however, are known to spy for the Seraphim. The Ring-givers and Sons of Mercy factions both have a strong presence on Bytopia; the former seek to eschew all material attachment to understand the spiritual karmic nature of exchange, while the latter seek to be an example by doing good and in this way lead the misguided to the right path.

Planar Features: Bytopia is much like mortal worlds, save for its dual layers each with their own gravity. Moving between the two layers requires crossing a gravity horizon line either via one of the mountainous spires, via flight, or via one of the unique sites (e.g. Broken Mountains or Oceanus Skyfalls). Traveling within Dothion is as normal, though one traveling without a strong sense of direction tends to take longer. Traveling within Shurrock tends to throw more obstacles in one's way the stronger one's pioneer spirit.

Conflicts: There are three internal conflicts inherent to Bytopia: Invention vs. Tradition, Connection vs. Separation, and the more nebulous Differing Views on Exchange. In addition, two conflicts often arise where Bytopia meets the rest of the planes: Outsiders vs. the Bytopian Way and the Bytopian Spy Netwok.

Invention vs. Tradition: Gnomish inventors, craftsmen deviating from their forefather's ways, and young pioneers with new ideas are opposed by the gnomish old guard, Craft Guilds with charters literally carved in stone, and aging frontiersmen who don't tolerate new-tangled technologies. It's a never-ending conflict in Bytopia, because both sides are right. Invention is necessary to ensure all exchanges continue to benefit all people, and it drives advances that can revolutionize business for the better; however it also has a dark side in the form of industrial development eradicating the old ways or diminishing the importance of generalist craftspeople. Gnomish inventions, for example, both help thresh grain and run amok devastating fields. New models of time-valued labor rather than coins as the medium of exchange hold promise but also make it hard to find rates of exchange everyone can agree on. Tradition is likewise necessary to pass on the skills of the past, to provide a moral compass for new generations, and to ensure the Principle of Trade is remembered and that no special interests take over trade.

Connection vs. Separation: Some Bytopians venture to dream about what lies on the other layer across the sky, perhaps feeling another soul much like them dreaming across the expanse, or recalling a merchant they met from the other side along a windswept mountainous spire who changed their life forever. For these dreamers the idea of living in the other culture, of inter-marriage, of learning how to see thru their eyes stirs a passion in their hearts; exchange is meant to be intimate, to change us. Other Bytopians dutifully send their cargo balloons across that cloudy barrier, valuing the notes or gifts the receive, perhaps even learning a new language, but they see their differences as a unbridgable. For these Bytopians, separate-but-equal never ringed more true, and they have no interest in forming close personal relationships with the other side; exchange lets us see that we can live with our differences, but at army's distance, and that maintained distance is the space where exchange should occur.

Differing Views of Exhange: While all Bytopians agree that an exchange should benefit all involved equally, and will always give due consideration to the other side's views, arriving at a happy solution is not always easy. Races with different lifespans may look at an exchange with longer-term or shorter-term views, so that what seems like a bad deal to someone short-sighted may be a very good deal in the long run. Likewise, the forces of progress and development may find themselves at odds with the nature spirits of the plane over the value of a given territory; for example, a Baku's grave may hold great spiritual significance but happens to be above a sapphire quarry gnomes are eager to explore. Merchant Priests, with considerable but ultimately limited wealth, may vigorously debate which of several needy communities should receive aid. And then there are questions of placing a value on abstract things like wise teachings, a bard's panegyric, an idea for a new infrastructure technology, or a promise of marriage.

Outsiders vs. the Bytopian Way: The Planar Trade Consortium, The Order of the Planes Militant, the Sodkillers, unscrupulous merchants, smugglers, and fiendish slavers all may come into conflict with Bytopians due to dogmatic differences. While Bytopia may be twin paradises, the rest of the planes exert pressure to yield to more mercenary ideas of human nature and to abandon their Principles of Trade; after all, how can an enterprise which thrives on exploitative labor hope to do business with Bytopians when to do so requires conforming to a stringent charter of conduct that few other planar merchants do? Bytopian idealism is seen by many as the enemy of true progress.

The Bytopian Spy Network: Living souls of Bytopia can be found traveling the planes to secure a deal, Bytopian Craft Guilds exert an influence felt even in Sigil, and Seraphim journey far afield on missions of mediation. Don't be fooled by the cordiality; Bytopians are shrewd observers and information gatherers, exchanging all they learn while abroad with their high-ups. This informal spy network is in plain view and yet has managed to stop even fiendish incursions into the Upper Planes. Those who know of this spy network could make life for Bytopians away from the Twin Paradises very uncomfortable if they fear their secrets are threatened.

Sites (Planes of Conflict): Yeoman (Dothion), The Golden Hills (Dothion), Mithral Forge (Dothion), Deephome (Dothion), Prosperity (Dothion), Baku's Graveyard (Dothion), Quarry (Shurrock), Heart of Justice (Shurrock), Windwrath (Shurrock), The Ridiculous Tower (Shurrock)
Sites (new): The Broken Mountains (both), Floating Forest of Nerember (gravity horizon), Oceanus Skyfalls (both), The Twinning Stone (either)

Adventure Hooks:

  1. Accompany a Bytopian Craft Guilder on a mission to another plane as cover for his real spying mission.
  2. Investigate a recent "Earthfall" and deal with any dire beasts running amok or people needing rescuing.
  3. Stop a gnome's out of control invention, possibly complicated by the gnome being trapped inside.
  4. Deal with a twinned but idealistic opposite version of a PC, whose identical appearance is causing the PC all sorts of trouble.
  5. Find out why Bytopian gems and ores are disappearing, complicated by a greedy mineral elemental or a sinister shadow fiend.
  6. Deliver an encoded spy report to a Seraphim while being pursued by a pack of fiends.
  7. Learn what befell the "siblings" of an intelligent gnomish construct that were sold across the planes in a deal where the construct fears it's gnomish master may have been taken advantage of.
  8. Expose a Gehennan industrialist's plan to undermine the Trade Guilds using a secret portal between a Shurrock mine and Gehenna, the environment and safety of workers be damned.
  9. Convince a Merchant Priest to fund some worthy expedition, or a merchant to send a caravan somewhere dangerous.
  10. Help a Bytopian out of a rotten deal struck with a dishonest merchant of the Lower Planes or Outlands.
  11. Consult a master educator of Bytopia to learn a rare craft, language, or proficiency, completing the spiritual tests the teacher sets forth.
  12. Present an idea at the next Bytopian Tradesmeet in the hopes that it gains momentum.
  13. Get gnomes to identify/reverse engineer some dangerous piece of machinery or strange contraption.
  14. Gain a spell or technology to help with toxic waste spills, environmental remediation, or some other way to make an endeavor "more clean".
  15. Help an exile of Elysium or Mt. Celestia cope with pastoral/pioneer life, perhaps "teaching them to fish."
  16. Team up with a beleaguered anti-slavery sect to smuggle freed slaves into Bytopia while slavers keep a close eye on all entry points into the Twin Paradises.
  17. Track back details of a trade that was so convoluted to conceal the one who started it all - a cunning Seraphim.
  18. Aid a pair of star-cross'd soul-mates separated by fate on Dothion and Shurrock.
  19. Smuggle goods between Dothion and Shurrock that a powerful traditionalist doesn't want crossing over.
  20. Rescue a Dothion nobleman's daughter who has fled to Shurrock, possibly complicated by her soul connection to an inhabitant of Shurrock or her spiritual twin crossing over to Dothion only to be arrested for kidnapping.
Wicke
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Um...wow.

Um...wow.

Anything else? That seems comprehensive.

Wicke
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Adventure/Campaign seed:

Adventure/Campaign seed: Byotopia's going bankrupt!

After a series of strange encounters between xorns and prospectors on Shurrock (or bank vault guards on Bytopia), it's becoming clear that all of Bytopia's wealth of gems and valuable ores are dwindling away to nothing. See, some high up on Mineral has decided that all the precious minerals across the plane belong to Mineral and has gathered up numerous sympathetic agents to ensure the return of all such materials.

This could just be a one-off adventure centered around the activities of Mineral agents on Bytopia, or it could be a planes-wide campaign that ends up pitting the Outer planes against the Inner planes.

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Nice, the link to Mineral is

Nice, the link to Mineral is specific and apropos.

I *really* am looking for a Bytopia that's not "boring." So my big question is:

Does this description of Bytopia evoke adventure ideas? Are the conflicts things you as a DM can imagine translating into specific scenarios? Can you see the PCs having a reason to visit? Does it accomplish this while remaining true to the ideal of Bytopia from the books?

Wicke
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Given that there wasn't much

Given that there wasn't much Bytopia in the books to begin with...

Part of the drive behind these renovations is to give people more hooks to snag adventures on, and I think what we've come up with has done an admirable job of doing just that.

Spy networks, merchant and trade guilds, a whole new race of Bytopian-theme celestials, landfalls, tension and cooperation between a pastoral (and sometimes urban) layer and a rugged frontier layer, gnomish invention and cleverness? Balance all of that against what was written up in canon, which devoted an entire section in the Bytopian part of the Plane of Conflict set to talking about how the balloon-trade system worked. The Bytopia section we have feels far more integrated with the rest of the Great Wheel.

Imagine the PCs coming across an obviously wounded gnomish courier somewhere on the planes who, with her dying breath, gives the PCs an envelope and a politely worded request to ensure it's safe, unopened arrival into the hands of a Janusian on Bytopia, then being pursued by a pack of fiends for the entire rest of their trip.

Or how about discovering some gnomish trader/inventor with some sort of porter construct with an intelligent gleam in its eye and who, when it can find a spare moment away from it's master/creator, asks the PCs to check up on the fate of it's brothers and sisters who have been sold across the planes. It worries so about them.

How about rooting out Merkhant plots to undermine the native trade guilds influence on the plane and replace it with their own. Or maybe a Gehennan industrialist who's discovered a quick portal between Bytopia and his home plane and is intent on mining the wealth of Bytopia, environmental damage be damned!

No, there are plenty of ideas to be found in and around the plane as it's been developed.

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Awesome!

Awesome!

I updated my summary post with your adventure hooks. I also feel good about our renovation of Bytopia.

Maybe I'll tinker with the Seraphim (Januesean angel) race some more, and we can work up some up some unique trade goods, but overall I think we've got something awesome.

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Seraphim: Cherubim

Cherubim
Small celestial, neutral good (lawful)

AC 13
Hit Points 22 (4d8+4)
Speed 5 ft, fly 30 (hover)

Abilities Str 10 (+0), Dex 13 (+1), Con 12 (+1), Int 10 (+0), Wis 14 (+2), Cha 14 (+2)

Skills perform +4
Damage Immunities radiant
Damage Resistances bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing from non-magical weapons
Senses darkvision (60 ft), passive perception 12
Languages common, celestial
Challenge 1 (200 XP)

Telepathy: The cherubim can communicate with any creature that can communicate telepathically with any creature within 100 feet of it that can understand a language.

Vigilant: Due to having two faces, the cherubim cannot be surprised.

ACTIONS

Radiant Touch: Melee attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft, one target. Hit: 2d6 radiant damage.

Celestial Choir (Recharge 5-6): The cherubim sing a heart-achingly beautiful song evoking regret, penitence, and reflection. All creatures within 30 feet must make a DC 12 Wisdom save or be incapacitated for one round. Additionally, if  10 or more cherubim sing in concert, and collectively target the same creature, a failed save also causes the creature to be banished from the Twin Paradises or compels it to fulfill its end of a bargain.

Innate Spellcasting: The cherubim casts as a 4th level cleric (Wisdom, save DC 12, spell attack +4). It can innately cast the following spells:

Cantrips: light (at-will)
1st level: detect evil and good (at-will), guiding bolt (1/day), healing word (3/day), sanctuary (1/day).
2nd level: calm emotions (1/day), warding bond (1/day), zone of truth (1/day).

Cherubim appear as the classical seraph: small beings with only with two childlike angelic faces, two pairs of white wings sprouting from where its neck would be.

They embody naive curiosity, perennial optimism, and exchange of simple gifts with unseen rewards. They are incapable of lying and must honor their debts. Their duties are to protect/guide worthy travelers, serve as elusive messengers for more powerful celestials, and share the gift of song (which sometimes hides clues). Groups of them can gather into celestial choirs with the power to compel an evil creature to fulfill its end of a bargain or banish evil-doers from Bytopia.

EDIT: These are 5th edition stats.

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Next PRP?

I'm just tinkering with some stats for the Janusean angels we were talking about. However, overall it feels like we got to a good stopping place with the PRP for Bytopia.

Since Bytopia was my proposal, does anyone have a preference about which plane you'd like to to approach next for renovation?