Beyond Countless Doorways
Beyond Countless Doorways is a splatbook for White Wolf under its Malhavoc / Sword and Sorcery Studios d20 imprint. Two co-authors were Monte Cook and Colin McComb, with Ray Vallese as (co)editor (with Sue W Cook) and r k post drawing the cover. Wolfgang Baur also contributed. Bruce Cordell chipped in with some playtesting, among others you've likely heard of, like Eric Mona. This is Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition compatible... and not 3.5.
BCD is deeply indebted to Planescape and, indeed, the authors all billed it as "a Planescape reunion". Because the Wizards of the Coast exiles were and are all close friends, but not friends with WotC's legal department, this one has plenty of crossover with other S&S Studio work like the first two Creature Collections and with Chris Pramas' work over at Green Ronin; but it tiptoes around copyrighted WotC content (which will become obvious - see #9 below). Where possible non-Manual legacy TSR beasties are laundered through Necromancer Games' Tome of Horrors.
BCD is, further, a followup to Monte Cook's Eldritch Might series, especially the third one concerning the high-magic Nexus. This led to some skub when the blurb touted "dozens of new monsters, NPCs, feats, and magic items", and readers counted only one new feat which was restricted to one plane, at that. But really, we're here for the fluff not for the crunch. As in BEM3, the planes are on the Moorcock Multiverse model, not (say) on a Great Wheel of "alignment".
The difference between "demiplane" and "planet" is not well explored here. Many of these sites are vanilla, with the physical laws we'd expect. Suppose we leave that to the philosophers.
- 1 Contents
- 1.1 Chapter 1: The Countless Worlds.
- 1.2 Chapter 2: Avidarel, The Sundered Star.
- 1.3 Chapter 3: Carrigmoor.
- 1.4 Chapter 4: Curnorost, Realm of Dead Angels.
- 1.5 Chapter 5: The Crystal Roads of Deluer.
- 1.6 Chapter 6: Dendri (Expansion 11).
- 1.7 Chapter 7: Faraenyl.
- 1.8 Chapter 8: The Burning Shadows of Kin-Li’in.
- 1.9 Chapter 9: The Lizard Kingdoms.
- 1.10 Chapter 10: The Maze.
- 1.11 Chapter 11: Mountains of the Five Winds.
- 1.12 Chapter 12: Ouno, the Storm Realm.
- 1.13 Chapter 13: Palpatur.
- 1.14 Chapter 14: Sleeping God’s Soul.
- 1.15 Chapter 15: The Ten Courts of Hell.
- 1.16 Chapter 16: Tevaeral, Magic’s Last Stand.
- 1.17 Chapter 17: Venomheart, Haven of the Sleep Pirates.
- 1.18 Chapter 18: The Violet.
- 1.19 Chapter 19: The Primal Gardens of Yragon.
- 1.20 Chapter 20: Through the Looking Glass.
- 2 Outtakes
Because /tg/ loves you and wants you to be happy, we're going to list every chapter here with due fair-use summarising.
Chapter 1: The Countless Worlds.
The Introduction. Also details several of the in-between worlds: the Celestial River which is sort-of Styx/MilkyWay, the Nexus carried over from EM3, the Ethereal Sea which combines Astral and Aethereal planes, and the Underland which is the dungeon-to-combine-all-dungeons. We'll be reading about other nexi as we go along, like the Round Road and arguably Carrigmoor too once that gets fixed.
Not a ONE of the settings below connects to the Celestial River because, as usual, Monte's editors lag Monte's firehose of content. At the barest minimum the Yama Courts need to hook to this. Maybe Kin-Li'in. (We can allow that Curnorost and the Maze are better fits for the Nexus, so that one step removed from the River.)
Speaking of: the Nexus connects to Curnorost, the Maze, Palpatur, Tevaeral, and... Yragon. What the arcane Nexus wants with low-magic biohazard Yragon, who knows. One guess is that it's a mistake and that the authors meant to hook the Nexus with the plane immediately before that, the Violet.
Chapter 2: Avidarel, The Sundered Star.
Dead sun, Nightshades roaming its corpse, and a magical mafia staking out an abandoned tower. Not without hope for rebirth, though.
Chapter 3: Carrigmoor.
Another RECKT world, here rubble-bits orbiting their old planet's core. The largest asteroid has a domed city on it, gating out to other planes. The world can't be patched back together but maybe the city's commerce and soul can.
Chapter 4: Curnorost, Realm of Dead Angels.
Angel sheol. If you're any sort of believer in Divine Justice, you'll consider that angels deserve better than this - assuming they have free will at all.
Chapter 5: The Crystal Roads of Deluer.
It's a network of nexi spanning thin air. But it's considered an Elemental Earth plane: because the nexi are asteroids just stuffed with gems and minerals. A fat greedy xorn got here first so you're not easily going to steal much of it.
Chapter 6: Dendri (Expansion 11).
Battle of the Bugs, as an aranea planet gets invaded by formians. Technically a moon: as with Carrigmoor, something shattered the planet, but left enough of its core that whatever was in orbit, stays in orbit. The ant-men are looking to other planes, where the aranea just want left alone; so we're on the side of Chaos here. How Moorcockian. There's lolz to be had from this one's piss-poor design: one portal leads to Shregeye, a water plane, and we're to believe that an insectoid race THAT BREATHES THROUGH ITS SKIN would want any part of that. Come on Vallese, you're the editor, edit this shit.
Chapter 7: Faraenyl.
Fey realms, sort of an Elvish Ireland. At least, on the surface. Dig deeper, though...
Chapter 8: The Burning Shadows of Kin-Li’in.
An abyssal plane of fire and ice, probably tapered at the bottom where the last demon prince's palace was. Was, we say: the late prince ate a paladin's holy sword in recent memory, so it's all (even) more chaotic than usual. Kin-Li’in links to Serran now, but those guys have no record of slaying the prince and they're not on a "paladin" or "holy" model, so they probably didn't do it. There's a semisentient golem here which could take on that prince's life-essence... or an angel's. On the minus side... there's a special sort of snake-demon here, the Terrorite; and your own shadow could rise against you.
Chapter 9: The Lizard Kingdoms.
It's Dino World!! widely agreed, for instance at the Piazza forum, to be Wolfgang Baur's entry here. He'd spent more time world-building this one than the others did theirs. He'd probably hoped to submit it for mainline D&D à la Ghostwalk (or Dawnforge...), because (widely noted) the intelligent psionic ankhegs are clear standins for thri-kreenTM. What Wolfgang hadn't done was to pick up any dino book published after 1985, given that even in the early 2000s we knew they were birdlike. The artist was even lazier: his biology classes begin and end with Playboy, as he prints a lizard goddess with some shapely perky mammary-glands high on her chest. Large insects here, too - leaving us to ask, what's the oxygen content here? Who cares; just enjoy the experience of scurrying around large sentient lizard feet and trying not to get et.
Chapter 10: The Maze.
It's adventurer carnival. Ladies! Gentlemen! Step right up and try your luck in any of these planewalking tunnels, you might win a treasure. Turns out that it's all run by demons. Sadly there's no map but there is an illustration taken from an angle. Maybe with some mathematics you could reverse-engineer a map from that. Except that Eric Lofgren drew the illo, maintaining his oil-painting affectation as to make it all super blurry.
Chapter 11: Mountains of the Five Winds.
Law versus chaos at its most METAL - or, more exactly, prog-rock. Some moron Piped open The Gates Of Dawn, and it's all gone early Pink Floyd down in here (seriously, it's referenced). Except in the mountains where they called in help from ultra-Mechanus.
Chapter 12: Ouno, the Storm Realm.
Adventures on the high seas and we mean high ABOVE the seas, between airbourne islands of "floatstone". Oh, and the sea is acid. And sentient, possibly divine.
Chapter 13: Palpatur.
Cronenberg Gaia became a battleground in the Blood War - Malmargus v. Hell-Well - and is now picking up the pieces. Strangely it was already peopled by tieflings hinting that this wasn't the first rodeo. This hosts the book's one Feat - moulding the "bioleche", the planet's living blood - and also features fiendish weapons of war, which you may add to those in Hellbound: The Blood War.
Chapter 14: Sleeping God’s Soul.
... to its friends. Everyone else calls it the Quietitude. As with Faraenyl, scratch the surface and see the clockwork.
Chapter 15: The Ten Courts of Hell.
The Hindu-Buddhist hells of Yama.
Chapter 16: Tevaeral, Magic’s Last Stand.
Here is where Monte has stashed his Book Of Eldritch Might artifact - almost the lowest-magic plane in this collection. This plane is perhaps inspired by Averoigne at the end of X2: Castle Amber: magic is possible, but illegal. Magic is also moribund because there's only one dragon left there. A Manichaean cult is rooting out the last vestiges. It comes to conjunction to Praemal, which the text then has to fudge because oops, some beta-reader noticed that it's a prison plane that's not supposed to do that. Vallese, man... do your job.
Chapter 17: Venomheart, Haven of the Sleep Pirates.
There's not much here; in fact, very little animal life that wasn't imported. There is, however, a big coastal fortress where - now - the pirate ship Neverest is docked. The pirates steal sleep and sell it to bad men in other planes, several of which are detailed here.
Chapter 18: The Violet.
The weirdest and maybe most original plane; this has no gravity, limited magic and is on Wonky Time. You get from place to place by the jungly vines growing every which-a'-way. It's a great place to store powerful magic that you don't want loose.
Chapter 19: The Primal Gardens of Yragon.
Planet of the Apes, if the apes (grahlus) were infected by some intelligence-enhancing spore. The grahlus go out to other planes and raid 'em.
Chapter 20: Through the Looking Glass.
Parallel worlds. Not so different a chapter as Jeff Grubb already got us in the first edition Manual of the Planes but hey.
In Game Trade Magazine 55 (September 2004), Monte Cook posted a world that didn't make the cut for this book: Xiun. BCD did give us a summary: physical attacks don't work on Xiun. Not even magical weapons, except for Tlorei Sticks. Spells and psi will work, however. So Xiun is the un-Violet. And if you don't have magic, you're getting raped. It's Monte paradise!!
The Diamond Throne setting, as "Serran", here links to Deluer and Kin-Li'in. Several other locales host Arcana Unearthed / Legacy of the Dragon monsters, e.g. the Helminth and the Quickling Faen. Obviously that setting already got its own writeup.
Further, there's a theory of Conjunction mooted in the introduction; but that theory isn't propagated through the planes here. We're often left asking, what's the difference between a "conjunction" and accessibility through permanent portals. Carrigmoor has such portals to several planes. So does Dendri (which admittedly was the worst-edited chapter). Those links are not considered conjunctional. To illustrate actual conjunction, Monte (back then) offered a free PDF "True Conjunction With Karlectash". Here, an energy-plane hostile to life conjoins a standard vanilla plane, with Elder Evils apocalyptic results.