Counting to Infinity
Counting to Infinity

Counting to Infinity

Being a discussion of the numbering methodology adopted by Fraternity of Order scholars in Abyssal Concordance documentation.

Author: Factor Wonfor, Cartographer of Cruel and Unusual Geographies for the Fraternity of Order

Factor Wonfor, Cartographer of Cruel Geographies

Cataloguing the Abyss is a thankless and frankly dangerous task, made difficult by the unwillingness of the tanar’ri to cooperate with the project. It’s almost as if they wouldn’t appreciate a nice organised list of properly named layers. It is important to note that the numbering of layers, while methodical, refers to the order in which they were catalogued by the Fraternity of Order, rather than any concept of ‘depth’ of the layer in the Abyss. To be honest, while we cannot step outside of the Great Ring to observe how the planes really organise themselves, it seems likely that a plane as inherently chaotic as the Abyss would stack its layers neatly in a pile anyway. Order of discovery then is a proxy by which we try to organise that which resists organisation.

As a result, we can infer several theories from this numbering system. The layers with the lowest numbers were the easiest to find. This may be because they contain more portals to Sigil, links to other planes or pathways like the Styx, or perhaps they simply wanted to be found. Conversely, the layers with higher numbers have only been discovered more recently by the Fraternity of Order. One can surmise that these layers are more difficult to find, or contain fewer portals, or are simply more deadly – after all, if nobody returns from an expedition to report a putative new layer in the correct procedure, it will not receive a numerical designation.


Being a retired explorer’s view of the structure of the Abyssal layers

Author: Turpental, tout of the Lower Ward and former Abyssal spelunker

ABYSSAL SHALLOWS (layers 1-22)

Loosely grouped together as “Abyssal Shallows” (though never by the tanar’ri), the upper layers of the Abyss aren’t necessarily the safest, the easiest to get to, the most travelled, or the most interesting. They are, however, the first to have been discovered by the first Guvners to catalogue the Abyss. It’s not really a very logical or convenient way to categorise the countless layers of the plane, but then the Abyss never was a convenient place to begin with. It is likely no accident that the Plain of Infinite Portals and the Grand Abyss, both well-connected layers, were discovered in this early batch. Likewise, the Abyzzal Bazaar of A’Shad’Ifohg is a well-explored marketplace of the Lower Planes. There is also a high concentration of layers interdicted (forbidden) by the Guvners here; a testament to their early conservatism and fear at the many horrors their explorers were discovering in the early days of Abyssal research.

ABYSSAL CANYONS (layers 23-54)

Delving deeper into the maw of the Abyss, a cutter will come across the Canyons, which are relatively well catalogued. Although there’s nothing obviously different between these layers and those higher, seasoned travellers reckon they can “feel” the thick layers of evil above them, somehow. There’s an oppressive air in these layers — that’s not to belittle those above, because some of the nastiest layers in the Abyss come higher than these — but the Abyssal Canyons are where the tanar’ri really start to reign on the plane in numbers. This region is dominated by Grazzt’s triple-layered realm Azzagrat, which can be found on layers 45-47, and the blood also now controls layer 54. There are a number other layers containing Abyssal Courts; the tanar’ri lords Sceirion, Aeskylos, Shabriri and (formerly) Morflos all have realms here too.

ABYSSAL PITS (layers 55-154)

A vast cross-section of the Abyss, the Pits cover one hundred layers. It’s dominated by Lolth’s realm in layers 65-66, Demogorgon’s realm which spreads its tentacles across four layers from layers 87-90, and Kiaransalee’s infamously acquired layer of Thanatos (113). Graz’zt controls yet two more layers on 120-121. Many layers here are over-run by their minions, and the tanar’ri in general here usually have some sort of allegiance to a powerful and fearsome Abyssal Lord. These layers were discovered long ago, so they’re better known than some, but still some holes exist in the records, be they due to tanar’ri high-ups killing those who know too much, or using powerful magics to cover up what was uncovered before its time.

NETHER ABYSS (layers 155-265)

Nether Abyss is where the records start to become really patchy. It seems the Guvners who originally numbered the layers weren’t as good at keeping records as they thought, because a lot of information on these layers has been lost. Gruff members of the Fraternity of Order claim, when questioned, that Anarchists must have infiltrated their ranks and damaged important notebooks, because even the names of many of these places are missing. However, given the relatively long time ago that the layers in Nether Abyss were mapped, it seems more likely there’s been a concerted effort by tanar’ri to undiscover layers for the Guvners. Why they care about this is anyone’s guess, but the fact remains that the chant on some of these places is thin on the ground. Guvners involved in the Abyssal Mapping project (Grant #4129) have been known to pay good garnishes for reliable chant, by the by. Noteworthy in this region are layers 213 to 226, which I call the Festering Rot. There are a large number of layers here which are literally decaying, riddled with fungus and slimes. Zuggtmoy, Juiblex, Sabnach and Ghlaunder (and formerly Moander) all have realms in this zone. Whether these layers are in close physical proximity, or whether pathways between them have allowed the decay to spread, I know not. I have heard rumours that some tanar’ri lords are keen to prevent the infection from continuing to spread through the Abyss.

THE DEEP DARK (layers 266-399)

The Dark Layers are called that for good reason: Most of them are Dark. Not lightless, ridiculous berk, but unknown. Although some of them are lightless. It seems the Guvners who numbered them got cagey of the amount of information that was being stolen and destroyed, and sealed the book on layers 266 and down. That makes it hard for cutters like me to find out what number’s been assigned to what. The bloods of the Planewalkers’ Guild are a great help, but I’m sorry to say with the chant that I can get leaked out from the City Courts I’ve only filled out a few of the layers in this region. You might well say, “Roll your cap at the Guvners, number the layers yourself as they’re found by your contacts, berk!” but it ain’t that easy. See, it’s hard to tell which layers have already been recorded, and which are new. Adding numbers willy nilly will probably only make the modron headache worse, and this project’s about learning the dark, not making a dark darker. I’d rather do it slow and sure, and make a list that compliments theirs, not contradicts it.

THE NADIR (layers 400-down)

How many layers does the Abyss have really? Cutter, a lot of the time it truly seems infinite, and its layers are unstable layers. I’ve heard of some cutters claiming layers in the 900s but that’s got to be barmy screed. My contacts in the Fraternity of Order claim that their book is up to 683 now, but as I said, they’re peery about who they share their darks with and it may be higher by now. The Nadir is the biggest region of the plane, and less is know about it than the first ten layers combined. The Nadir is the “lowest” of the low, deeper than deep. ‘Course, these layers ain’t really any lower than the rest, but the fact they’ve been discovered the most recently tells you something about ’em, and Guvners are certainly the most secretive about them. Also their rules insist on validating layers as novel before they are inked in, so some numbers are reserved pending verification – and given the dangers of Abyssal exploration, this may never happen for some. Perhaps these layers are harder to find, or make themselves harder to find… for whatever reason, but they’re often the most dangerous. Planewalkers think of the Nadir as the “wilderness” of the Abyss; so little is known about many of the layers here because only a handful of travellers have ever made it back from some of ’em. Journey here at your risk. But if you make it back, please tell us about it, blood!

Reference: The Concordance of the Abyss


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