The Walled City, Gate Town to Carceri

Location: Outlands / Brinklands

Ruler: Burghermaster Villigus Bazengar, a shator gehreleth

Curst is a razorvine-choked burg clinging to the gate to Carceri like it’s been impaled on it. At the centre of the circular city is the Gate Square, a huge archway of razorvine which glows with a sinister red hue. Clustered around this area are the largest and most important buildings of the burg; the burghermaster’s kip, the offices of the government, the burg’s treasury, the jail.

Further out from the Gate Square district you’ll find the larger and more well-appointed kips of richer bloods. This also means better defended of course; expect to see razorvine choking the walls of these houses to stop ne’er do wells getting in.

Further out still from the gate are the merchants and warehouses of the burg; the shops and crafts folks work here. Then you’ll find the stables and taverns, and makeshift kips of the common folks built from tarnished metal, cracked glass and weathered stone. And then finally on the fifth ring of roads you’ll hit the enormous City Wall. 

Like everything else in this burg, the wall is virtually submerged in razorvine, making climbing it a very dangerous prospect indeed. The Wall Guards, a company of maelephants, seem far more keen to keep folks in the burg than preventing cutters outside from coming in. A word to the traveller, expect to stump up some serious garnish to get all the paperwork you’ll need to be allowed to leave Curst when your business is concluded. The fiendish burghermaster himself needs to approve anyone leaving, and that sod is a miserable one on a good day.

The Shackled Gate to Carceri

The chant goes that gate to Carceri itself is probably one-way; at least, nothing ever seems to come back out of it. As they say, the prison plane jealously guards its inmates. In fact the gate isn’t often used, at least willingly. Adventurers and traders are understandably reluctant to enter a plane that’s notoriously hard to return from. The most use the gate sees is for the ‘second exile’ ceremony, which involves condemned criminals being shoved through to almost certain demise. It’s not guarded, because it doesn’t need to be.

The Folk of Curst

The folks of Curst are a bitter lot; exiles, vagrants, berks on the run from the law. Face it, nobody’s here because they want to be, and everyone’s plotting revenge on the cutters who sent them here. Be it raising a ragtag army, gathering magical weaponry, or working with anarchist cells, every berk’s got a hustle.

Regional Effects

The gate to Carceri causes a number of unique magical effects which affect all in the burg:

  • Ball and Chain: It feels like you’re dragging a ball and chain behind you as you walk in the town. All creatures have their speeds reduced by 5.
  • Cut Off from the Astral: It’s not possible to teleport or plane shift out of the burg. Furthermore, portals out of the town are vanishingly rare. The only reliable way to leave the town is through the gate to Carceri.

Locations in Curst

  • Brasicol’s — a dingy shop which specialises in infernal traps and unpleasant surprises you can send to enemies. The owner Brasicol (prime gnome [he/him] / NE) is a vindictive sod who has many enemies and a long list of cutters who’ve wronged him.
  • Burghermaster’s Estate — overrun with gehreleth these days, the Burghermaster’s mansion has seen better days. Looking more like a haunted cage than a house, this kip overlooks the gate to Carceri itself. One can only presume the end game of the new ruler of the burg is for the whole thing to slip over into the prison plane.
  • Heartwine Distilleries — Heartwine is a potent brew made from razorvine by the Cilenei Brothers (prime elf wizards [he/him] / Sensate / CN) well and Kester Malabo (planar fighter [he/him] / NE) poorly in two competing distilleries in Curst. Competition goes beyond the commercial and into violence and arson.
  • Prison — the prison of Curst is a fearsome tangle of towers, spikes and of course razorvine. Some of the nastier berks from an already nasty town are holed-up in here. At least until their turn to be kicked through the gate into Carceri proper. Current prisoners include the former head of the Wall Watch, Baron Yurel Zarnthaskar (prime fighter [he/him] / Fated / LN), as well as Binian (planar thief [he/him); Dylan (planar wizard [she/her] / N); Eldan (planar wizard [he/him] / N); Gerik (planar wizard [he/him] / N); Gib (planar thief [he/him] / N); Kemak (planar wizard [he/him] / N); Peato (thief [he/him]); Rae (wizard [she/her]); Yelaan (planer [she/her]).
  • Quartered Man Inn — owner of this smoky alehouse, Abascis the Sweaty (prime human thief [he/him] / Dustmen / CE) is on the run from the Mercykillers so likes to give swordsmen and wizards good prices on their bub to keep them friendly, just in case like.
  • Town Dump — this junkyard sprawls around the outside of Curst’s walls, filing  several valleys with items lost elsewhere in the multiverse which somehow turn up here. A green hag named Dolores runs the place, although it’s also infested with rust monsters, cranium rats and even a dragon named Tudhog.
  • Traitor’s Gate Tavern — barkeeper Tainted Barse (planar fighter [he/him] / CN) is unfriendly to out-of-towners and locals alike and frankly if there were more alternative drinking holes in the burg, it would be out of business.
  • The Undead Unicorn Inn — a known haunt of Anarchists, this inn is one of the few in the burg. It’s run by Densheva the Blue (planar tiefling [she/her] / Hands of Havoc / CN) who is an expert at sniffing out fellow malcontents and converting them to her cause.
  • The Underground — a network of tunnels underneath the streets of the burg said to connect the Prison, the town dump, and the Traitor’s Gate Tavern. The underground is not an easy shortcut however, it crawls with monsters; fiends and worse.
  • Warehouse District — Curst imports most of its raw materials and foods through a single well-guarded portal to a secret destination. The warehouses hold stocks of preserved foods, coal, wood, fabrics and iron ore. Some of the cutters working in this district are: Aileena (planar [she/her] / N); Devore (planar warehouse supervisor [he/him] / N); Dorfin (planar [he/him] / N); Leighis (planar [he/him] / N).

Power Groups in Curst

  • Anarchists — the burg is a hotbed of anarchy; multiple cells still exist here even after the implosion of the faction in Sigil. The Hands of Havoc also have a growing foothold in the burg, although a body would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two rival factions. The chant points at two cutters in particular being high-ups in independent Revolutionary League cells here: Xero Baox (planar tiefling fighter [he/him] / Anarchists / CE) and Magimus Shentor (planar human wizard [he/him] / Hands of Havoc / CN).
  • Prison Guards — the city gaol is run by Marquez (planar fighter [he/him] former Harmonium / NE), an ex-Hardhead who left the faction after realising its strict codes simply wouldn’t work in this brutal environment. Other guards include Chek’ka Plute and Skatch (planar fighters [he/him] Mercykillers / NE). Under pressure from the gehreleth burghermaster, who wants to replace the humans with fiends, Marquez still clings to power, partly because the prison is so well defended, and partly helped by prisoners, who know that gehreleth jailers would be worse than their current miserable situation.
  • Slavers — Hezobol (planar wizard [he/him] / NE) is a merciless vendor of slaves, to the high-ups of the burg, for indentured service in warehouses, or the worst fate of all, sent through the portal to Carceri to gehreleth masters.
  • Wall Watch — since the gehreleth Bazengar took control of the burg, the wall guards have been a particularly noxious troop of maelephants. These bashers stare down from the many bladed watchtowers on the city wall, ensuring nobody escapes.

Cutters in Curst

  • Bazengar, Burghermaster Villigus — (planar shator gehreleth [he/him] / CE) the current ruler of Curst, who deposed and imprisoned the former burghermaster, and takes pleasure in the despair of the burg’s citizens. Villigus commands the maelephants of the Wall Watch, who have strict instructions not to let anyone leave the burg without his express permission.
  • Malako, Crumplepunch — (planar human fighter [he/him] / NE) is one of the better smiths in the burg, capable of making weapons of respectable quality.
  • Giljaf, Tovus – (planar githzerai necromancer [he/him] Athar / LE) the former burghermaster of Curst, now imprisoned somewhere within the fiendish manor of the current ruler. His former administrative assistant Carl Parfidor (planar [he/him]) is likewise missing, presumed lunch.

Recommended Reading

  • Harbinger House [2e] p40-45 (chapter set in Curst)
  • Player’s Primer to the Outlands [2e] p12 (burg description)
  • Planescape Campaign Setting: Sigil & Beyond [2e] p35-36 (burg description)
  • Planescape: Torment (a chapter of the game is set in Curst — the Torment Wiki may be useful for background information here if you’ve not played the game.)
  • Sigil & the Outlands [5e] p66-67 (burg description)
  • Turn of Fortune’s Wheel [5e] p40-43 (explores the burg and the town dump further)

Brief Mentions in the Canon

  • Dungeon Magazine #055 p19 (plot point occurring in Curst)
  • Great Modron March [2e] p90,92 (adventure uses the gate to Carceri but doesn’t elaborate)
  • Planescape Monstrous Compendium Vol. 2 [2e] p63 (Merkhants have a hidden fortress and vault near Curst), 79 (Heartwine)
  • Planewalker’s Handbook [2e] p10,12 (brief mention)

Source: Jon Winter-Holt. Canonwatch: Between the 2e and 5e versions the town has been taken over by gehreleth, the Wall Watch by maelephants and some more interesting creatures have moved into the Dump since Planescape: Torment. Otherwise things are largely unchanged. I went with the 5e lore here as this offers more plot hooks and a wider variety of antagonists. But kept the 2e spelling of burghermaster. Many of the other NPCs in this description are from the Planescape: Torment game.

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