World Serpent Inn
The World Serpent Inn is an extradimensional locale in the Dungeons & Dragons multiverse. Formally classified as a transitive demiplane, it takes the form of a massive tavern's common room (hence the name) - but the backrooms are an ever-shifting array of potential chambers, up to and including portals to worlds and planes throughout the multiverse. Meanwhile, the common room's door regularly and randomly cycles through multiple locations across the multiverse. As a result, the Inn is popular with an incredibly diverse array of clientele from across the planes; all species are welcome here, so long as they respect the Inn's rules, and many residents have in fact been stranded here either by the shifting of the doors or troubles on their homeworld. Not for nothing was it described in its web enhancement as "a gathering place for dead races, unborn gods, forgotten heroes, restless ghosts, and the engineers of worlds as yet uncreated".
The World Serpent Inn first appeared in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure module "OP1 - Tales of the Outer Planes", where it was used as an overarching method to get players from their presumed position on the Prime Material out into the greater multiverse - in this, it can be considered a prototype for Sigil, although the World Serpent Inn is far more hospitable (In Volo's Guide to Cormyr, Elminster notes that the Inn "allow[s] dimensional travelers to avoid those violence-loving idiots of Sigil"). OP1 established only the barest essentials about the Inn; it wouldn't be until 3rd edition that a greater amount of detail would be provided, in comparison to namedropping. The first surge of details was as a web enhancement on the WoTC website connecting to the 3e Manual of the Planes; fittingly enough, it would subsequently appear in Dragon Magazine #351, which not only provided more "fluffy" content on the Inn, but also used it as a medium to justify its articles on various classic D&D settings.
The Inn Proper
The World Serpent Inn can be divided into two segments; the Common Room and the Backrooms (no, not those Backrooms). Whilst the Backrooms are particularly unstable, even the Common Room experiences fluctations of reality, which explains the discrepancy between the web enhancement and Dragon descriptions of it. This article will focus on the Dragon version, because it's more fantastical and you can read the web enhancement's version for yourself.
One enters the World Serpent Inn through a set of massive double doors, leading past a pair of coatrooms into a chamber that resembles an ancient tavern's common room, with plank floors underfoot and venerable wooden beams overhead. The common room is illuminated by both scattered fluted pillars that possess their own inherent glow, and a large shaft of light in its center over the bar proper. This bar, obviously, dominates the common room, and itself centers around a massive pillar lined with shelves, which are stacked with the most exotic beverages one can imagine - and more than a few that one can't. Behind the bar, a concealed door in the floor leads to the Inn's booze cellar, which some have suggested may actually pilfer from one or more bacchanalian gods. An eerie, sweet-smelling blue mist - like a non-toxic smoke - fills the air of the common room and obscures vision, making it impossible to see the entirety of the room at one time and ensuring a nice, obscuring haziness fills the place. This is believed to help keep things... "hospitable" amongst the diverse clientele or inexperienced visitors. The bar is surrounded by tables and chairs of all shapes and sizes, whilst booths and long tables line the walls. To serve as a place to help resolve disputes, the common room also features a massive (10ft wide, 30ft long, 20ft deep) brawling pit, ringed by a low wall so patrons can rest their drinks whilst they watch people kick the tar out of each other.
Half a dozen passages lead from the common room to the backrooms; uniformly dark and gloomy, although their construction varies from plaster to wood to stone blocks, and sometimes other things as well. This is the most mutable part of the demiplane, with corridors that can stretch out for infinity and an ever-shifting array of chambers. Some doors are portals, others lead to simple chambers, from bedrooms to libraries to studies to storage rooms. Needless to say, trying to keep track of the backrooms is a never-ending nightmare; the corridors randomly shift their configurations, and doors irregularly vanish and appear, sometimes disappearing entirely for a time, other times merely moving throughout the corridors. Fortunately, only the configuration of the backrooms changes; the doors themselves are unique, so even if your chosen bedroom vanished whilst you were having dinner in the common room, you can at least tell that it's not where it should be when you head back. As annoying as this is, there is a silver lining to it; less-reputable visitors to the Inn have been known to try and stake out "turf" in the backrooms, and the shifting works to prevent these individuals from claiming any significant territory, and thus rendering the place truly inhospitable.
Because hospitality is the watchword of the World Serpent Inn. Beyond the friendly, welcoming attitudes of the staff themselves, the Inn is actually interwoven with multiple protective charms, which in 3e is partially explained by a minor alignment to the Positive Energy Plane. For starters, the World Serpent Inn is timeless; nobody ages there, although they still hunger and thirst (it is a tavern, first and foremost), and some customers have even chosen to stay because there are worse ways to become immortal. For another, people heal much faster whilst in the World Serpent Inn, and can even regenerate missing limbs and organs if they hang around long enough. This effect is particularly concentrated in the common room, where rapid healing and other defensive wards makes combat all but useless (Damage Reduction 10/-, by 3e rules).
Another magical effect endemic to the Inn is that it's hard to tap magical energy there, making spells and even spell-like abilities difficult to use. Whether this is born out of the same desire to keep the peace as the healing and protective wards, or is intended to keep the Inn safe from plane shifting reprobates, or even both, is unknown.
The final magical trait of the Inn is that people within it have the innate ability to see the invisible. Again, nobody knows just why this is.
The World Serpent Inn's name stems from the World Serpent - a primeval "ur-deity" of the scalykind races in original D&D lore, not the Primal Spirit from 4th edition - and apparently its construction was precipitated by that deity's fragmentation. Nobody knows anything more than that; some have theorized the Inn may actually be a somnolent fragment of the World Serpent, but many think of these claims as lunacy. But then, folks can't even agree on who made the place; most assert that it was created by an alliance between the mercane trader Ilyndele of the Arcane, the illithid High One Sharth, and a third creator whose name varies depending on the tale and his origin is almost always asserted as being the homeworld of whoever you talk to.
What is known is that the World Serpent Inn has been around for centuries, maybe millennia.
The Rules of the World Serpent Inn
Whilst pretty anarchic place, the World Serpent Inn does have a few rules that visitors are informed to remember and abide by during their stay:
- Food's on the house. Drinks are not.
- Leave when you're ready.
- Do not attack the waitstaff.
- If you must fight with another patron, do it in the brawling pit.
- Management is not responsible for the loss of property or life in the backrooms.
The only permanent and fixed member of the waitstaff is a barkeep named Mitchifer; a tall, fat, human male with a long white beard, a booming laugh, rosy cheeks and a perpetual wide grin. He'd almost look like Santa Claus dressed up as a barkeeper, if it weren't for the fact his beard is made of thousands of tiny little white snakes and the fact his eyes are dominated by his pupils, which take the form of ornately-carved, jet-black doors. Full of zest and good humor, Mitchifer never rises to any provocation, succumbs to despair, nor harbors a grudge; every customer is treated with unfailing politeness, no matter their past behavior. He loves to chat, but never reveals any significant information about the World Serpent Inn itself or any other important topic that is brought to his attention. His origins are unknown and his nature is a mystery, especially since he has been killed on a couple of occasions, only to reappear without so much as a flicker in his smile later. Some believe he is connected in some way to the proposed "consciousness" of the demiplane.
Further waitstaff are uncertain; it seems that the ranks of waiters, cooks and so forth fluxes all the time as individuals join up or leave for their own reasons. One relatively stable, if not permanent, band of waitstaff are the Serpent Wenches; a band of female servers comprised entirely of curvaceous, comely and cherubic female half-fey gnomes, all wearing a distinctive uniform comprised of revealing frocks made from white-speckled, deep indigo snake scales.
Customers of Note
Akim al-Kalaas is a half-mad sha'ir from Hiyal, the City of Intrigue in Zakhara. A tall, unnaturally thin man with a dark, scraggly beard, hooked nose and wild eyes, he always wears silk robes (dark green or maroon samite) and a deep yellow turban set with a blood-red ruby, and caries a teak staff carved with two interlocking spirals and capped with a brass figuring of a capering monkey. Forced to flee Hiyal after trying and failing to magically coerce the sultana to marry him, he spent years serving Grandfather Marwan al-Jabal al-Hiyali, the Old Man of Assassin Mountain. Freed from servitude with Marwan's death, he wandered off into the desert and stumbled across a portal to the World Serpent Inn. He now pursues a quiet life as an information broker, regularly meeting with genies.
Chch'kraran is a thri-kreen from Athas who was sent to Tyr to seek steel weapons, only to get lost and fall through a portal to the World Serpent Inn instead. Unable to find a way back to his homeworld, he has adopted the Serpent Wenches as his new pack, and has found a new calling in the buying and selling of magical arms and armaments.
Kraksha of Khorvaire is a renegade rakshasa from Eberron (VERY notable considering Ebberon doesn't have the same cosmology as the other settings), who was driven away by his kin after falling victim to some sort of curse during the Last War. He is not very welcome amongst the World Serpent Inn, and makes no friends with his constant efforts to dominate and manipulate those around him. He's been forced to make a living selling his spellcasting skills to others to pay his ever-mounting bar tab.
Mellomir of Arabel is an epic level human wizard (diviner) from the distant past of the Forgotten Realms, who has survived the centuries by living in the World Serpent Inn - long enough to see his prophecies of things like the deaths of Bhaal and Myrkul during the Time of Troubles, the reappearance of the Ring of Winter, the invasion of the Inner Sea by Iakhovas, and the return of the City of Shade become a reality. It is rumored that he's actually forseen a terrible disaster coming for his homeworld, and that's why he's both hiding in the Inn and why he pays others to go on quests to retrieve Faerunian artifacts for him (Hey, turns out he was right).
Phoebus is a formerly human fighter from Oerth who has been trapped in the body of a lizardfolk after perishing in the bowels of some nameless dungeon and being reincarnated by a druid party member. After years of enduring the stares and mockery of others, he stumbled across a portal to the World Serpent Inn and hasn't looked back; nobody bats an eye at him here, and his services as a bodyguard are quite welcome.
The Bearded Reaver is a neogi renegade who, like most of its kind, was less than happy to be chosen to undergo the transformation into a Great Old Master. Unlike most of those doomed to be filled with parasitic eggs, it stumbled across a portal to the World Serpent Inn and has remained here ever since. It specializes in running the brawling pit like a miniature gladiatorial arena, financing itself by taking a cut of the resultant gambling.
Ferret Snitchwhistle is an afflicted kender from the ancient past of Krynn - specifically, from the days just before the Cataclysm that devastated Istar. Ferret stole the Icons of Symeon from the Great Temple of Istar, and for this was cursed; having managed to escape death on the day of the Cataclysm by stumbling into the World Serpent Inn from a portal opened in Six Swords Square, he has been doomed to watch the last three days of Istar before the Cataclysm strikes over and over again ever since, unable to enter the portal himself to retrieve them. Driven half-mad with guilt, he has set up a kiosk near the doorway that he entered and tries to lure adventurers into completing his "World Famous Scavenger Hunt". Those who take him up on this are sent to Krynn and charged with finding the five Icons that he left scattered across the city in his original happy-go-lucky state. Only by bringing all five Icons together before the city is destroyed can the portal be reopened; otherwise, the party's only hope to survive is to flee into the wilderness beyond the city before it is crushed. Only by giving him the Icons can Ferret return to Krynn and break his curse by restoring them to where they belong, although whether he will do this, and what happens to the portal if he does, are left to the DM to decide.
Whilst the World Serpent Inn is quite capable of randomly opening its main doors to anywhere, there are a number of stable portals linking to the Inn scattered across the multiverse. Some, usually the most stable, connect to the main doors of the Inn, whilst others lead to and/or from behind specific doors lost in the maze of shifting backrooms.
- Faerun: The Wild Goose tavern in Arabel, a city in Cormyr. To enter, stand under the signboard facing the door, knock on an imaginary door in the air and invoke a deity whilst claiming the right to enter; the signboard will change to display the name "World Serpent Inn" and its sigil, a snake curled in a figure-8 and eating its tail, before the door can be opened to reveal the Inn's interior.
- Eberron: The Queen's Kiss flowershop in Fairhaven, capitol of Aundair. To enter, come at night, stand on flowerpetals on the doorstep, and open the door to reveal the Inn. There are also more unstable portals leading to Sharn, Stormreach, Sarlona, and the ruined city of Metrol.
- Zakhara: A portal in the backroom leads to a spot in the deep desert, 90 miles from the Great Oasis.
- Athas: A locked door with sand seeping around its edges lies deep in the backrooms of the World Serpent Inn; should it be opened, it creates a stable doorway to a set of ruins half-buried beneath a sand dune on the blasted world of Athas.
- Krynn: The only known stable portal to Krynn is the cursed portal guarded by Ferret Snitchwhistle.
- Oerth: Aside from the relatively famous portal linking the World Serpent Inn to the Free City of Greyhawk, another relatively stable portal leads to Irongate.
- Kara-Tur: The World Serpent Inn visibly manifests as the locally named "Inn of the Unseen Way" or "Impossible Tavern" on cloudy or moonless nights on the main road leading south from Cham Fau.
- Planescape: The World Serpent Inn physically manifests itself as a small cottage on the western edge of the gatetown of Ecstasy, which sits on the Outlands and connects to Elysium.
- Ravenloft: Each night, at sundown, a portal in the backrooms of the World Serpent Inn links the demiplane to one random domain within the Demiplane of Dread. This two-way portal lasts the night, then closes with sunrise, reappearing elsewhere in Ravenloft the next night. It is one of the few ways that someone stranded in Ravenloft can escape that plane, but since it breaks the WHOLE POINT OF THIS PLACE the Dark Powers will do all they can to drive people away from the Ravenloft-side entrance. At the same time, the Dark Powers will eagerly lure residents of the Inn through to Ravenloft if they can.
- Stargate Command: one of the rooms contains a Stargate that will take people directly to Stargate Command within NORAD headquarters under Cheyenne Mountain on Earth. Currently closed for maintenance.
|The Cosmology of Planescape|
|Inner Planes||Ethereal Plane||Prime Material||Astral Plane||Outer Planes|
|Elemental Planes||Energy Planes||Demiplane of Dread||Plane of Shadow||Plane of Mirrors|
|World Serpent Inn||Tu'narath||Sigil||Demiplanes||Ordial Plane?|