The Well of Worlds
The Well of Worlds

The Well of Worlds

In recent months I have been assigned the task of cataloguing all the known demiplanes floating about in the Deep Ethereal, and compiling all known information about said demiplanes. As curious and interesting as some of these demiplanes have been, for the greater part this has been nothing but a tiresome labour. On average, for every demiplane actually worth some examination, there have been a dozen dull little Ethereal castles built by reclusive Prime wizards.

However, for the three weeks prior to writing this entry I had been chasing rumours about that bogeyman of the Deep Ethereal, the so-called “Demiplane of Dread.” It seems that every cutter to have ever bent an elbow in a Sigil tavern has something to say about this place, yet the more interviews I carried out, the more one truth came to light: none of these people know a thing about what they were talking about. I have yet to come across a single interviewee who was ever there, or who personally met anyone who was ever there. Everyone simply seems to have a “friend of a friend” who escaped, it seems. So disgusted was I with this deplorable lack of facts, that I was about to dismiss the entire notion of the so-called “Demiplane of Dread” as nothing more than so much penny gush.

Then I had a rather unusual encounter.

An unusual encounter at the City Court

I was sitting on the steps of the City Court, eating my lunch as I am wont to do, and feeling quite frustrated over my fruitless quest. It had stopped raining just before my lunch break; the air was still quite hazy with moisture, and mists were rising up from the cobbles. All in all, another dark and foggy Peak in Sigil, not that I was particularly concerned.

I don’t remember daydreaming or otherwise being caught up in my own thoughts, but somehow I failed to notice the approach of an old woman. In fact, I didn’t notice her until she was standing directly in front of me, and I must confess I was a bit startled. Her clothes were rather dark and plain, and she looked to be as old as the Spire itself. The aroma of spices hung about her, and she leaned heavily on a crooked old walking stick.

As mentioned, I was a bit startled, and simply sat looking up at her for a moment. Without any words of introduction, she handed me a book, telling me it might aid me in my quest. I took the book without comment, and she immediately turned and walked off into the fog. I believe she was with a group; through the fog I could faintly make out some sort of gaudy enclosed wagon pulled by two black horses. Yes, horses in Sigil, believe it or not! Two dark-haired men rode atop the wagon, and one more stood to the rear. The old woman entered the wagon and in a few moments the lot of them were gone.

Obviously, the woman was some sort of eccentric, but I had a look at the book she’d handed me anyway. It was old and crumbling, with a frayed leather cover bearing no title, just a large sinister eye. Gently looking through its pages, I quickly surmised that it was the notes of an unknown wizard.

The Crumbling Tome

Intrigued, I returned to my office next to Records Room B and started reading, thinking that this anonymous mage might detail the mysterious so-called Demiplane of Dread. To my disappointment, he didn’t. In fact, the more I read the book, the less I liked it.

The tome held the research notes of a conjurer; it held every discovery he had ever made throughout his career. Unfortunately, he was the most woefully misinformed conjurer I have ever encountered. He was the very epitome of a Clueless berk. At first, I though the author lived in Gehenna, and was simply using an unusual spelling when he named his home; after all, he wrote in a highly archaic and eccentric style. Perhaps some yugoloth had waxed poetic and written the book in some dubious plot to mislead the wizards who read it?

Suddenly it struck me! The old woman had told me the book might help me in my quest! What if this “G’Henna” the author lived in was not the lower plane I knew of? What if G’Henna was some other, uncharted place? Could it be?

This book was not a description of the Demiplane of Dread! This book was a description of the Multiverse, written by a denizen of that mysterious place!

Exciting as this revelation was, the book remains of extremely limited worth, perhaps most useful as a lesson that not all authors are experts in their field. I have seen no evidence to support the author’s concept of “planar gravity,” and the author seems blissfully unaware of the existence of planes aligned more closely to Law and Chaos rather than Good or Evil. For that matter, I see nowhere in his “Well of Worlds” to place the Outlands or the Astral. Not to mention that he seems to place his “Mortal World” at the centre (perhaps I should say bottom) of the multiverse, rather than Sigil (which he also ignores). Sadly, the book is more indicative of the author’s own ignorance than any hidden laws of the multiverse. Then again, perhaps his notes have been shaped by unusual, local planar laws? Could he be living in the realm of an unnamed Power and somehow not know it? Could it be that in describing the laws of the multiverse, he really describes the laws of his home?

As you can see, the book offers more questions than answers. But it did convince of one thing: if a denizen of the so-called Demiplane of Dread could be so ignorant of the multiverse even after what his notes indicate are a lifetime of study, then wherever he lives (or lived) certainly has no great truths to teach us about reality.

For quick review, I prepared a few choice excerpts from this rather lengthy and convoluted text. Many pages in the book are taken up with detailed if dubious diagrams, notes from various experiments, and other items of little interest to the casual reader. The original tome was then placed in Records Room B, but an assistant informs me it has recently been misplaced. Thus, my excerpts are all that remain of the tome, at least for now. Presented here are the author’s depictions of the planes; enjoy them, for what they’re worth.

It doth appear to the learned scholar that as above, so below, and as below, so above. Should thou taketh up a stone and drop it, it needs must fall; if thou dost throw it to the heavens, it needs must Return to ground.

Lo, ’tis much the same with the Planes of Existence. Descension is the natural order; Ascension worketh against the grain. Thus, ’tis a simple matter to pluck Beings from their lofty perches and bring them to earth; returning them from whence they fell is altogether a different matter.

However, as doth a feather upon a summer breeze, some things are empowered to Ascend through the lightness of their being. Such is this when the Soul, upon the demise of its earthly flesh, doth shed that weight and begin to float skyward, burdened only by its sins. Every soul needs want Ascension; how far they rise is marked by the level of purity they doth obtain; also by their connections to the Mortal World.

Many souls can release not their fearful grasp upon this mortal coil, and are trapped by their own weight to remain here, in the form of dreadful spirits.

The universe is as a Well, with one world piled upon another like great stones. Ether is the water which doth fill the Well; it joineth these worlds together and doth hold them fast, and it is through this Ether that beings Gravitate.

Here at the bottom of the Well is the Mortal World, where Man maketh his life as is his destiny; this land all around us. The Mortal World is small and insignificant in scope, with narrow borders marked by that vapour known as the World’s End Mists. These Mists hide the Worlds above from our view, and hide the Mortal World from eyes above. But just as valleys lie hidden by intervening mountains, other realms lie beyond our vision.

Holding separate the Mortal World from the Planes is the Firmament, a crystalline shell upon which hangeth the stars. Within this shell is another, upon which the Sun is placed; within this shell yet one more, upon which yon Moon doth rest.

The Unnamed Scholar of Ravenloft

Beyond the Firmament, yet also within it (albeit hidden to the untrained eye) is the World of Darkness and its lesser brother the World of Light. These realms are muchly like mirrors of the Mortal World. The world of Darkness doth reflect all that is foul; the world of Light all that is pure. Night and Day, Death and Life. These worlds swirl about our own, and are the sources of energy from which all magic draweth strength, be it potions Healing or Vampire’s touch.

Beyond and above the worlds of Darkness and Light are the Worlds Materiel. There are four realms of purity; these are Earth, Wind, Water, and Flame. These worlds are entirely materiel, each composed of naught but its base element. Where these worlds touch, they create new realms, such as Smoke, Ash, or Ooze. Where the Worlds Materiel touch Darkness they create Terrible areas of Shadow. It is from all these realms that the summoner calleth down the Creatures Elemental. In truth, through all of time the detritus of these Worlds Materiel hath trickled down to Us; the Mortal World is composed of these elements.

Those souls buoyant enough to rise this far next reach the Baser Realms. These are harsh and terrible regions, with tormenting creatures which will set upon the less buoyant spirit with the ravenous appetites of starved mongrels. ‘Tis here where souls marked by Sin will cease to rise, and here they are doomed to remain. ‘Tis from these Baser Realms that the summoner may conjure the most horrible and powerful of servants.

‘Tis also here where several of those Beings known to the Priest as Gods are thought to reside; these Gods are as cruel as the above mentioned fiendish beasts. ‘Tis fact: they seek to spread their Corruption on the Worlds Below, just as the apple tree doth drop its seed-bearing fruit from Branch to Soil.

Beyond these realms of punishment are the Ascendant Levels, places of peace and rest, which may be reached by only the most weightless of souls. Here exist the remote Gods of Purity and Light. These Levels are separated from the Mortal World by All the Worlds between, and all the power-jealous Beings therein. Thus it comes as no surprise to the Learned individual that the Ascendant Beings seldom reach down far enough to touch the Mortal World, as would seem simpler for their Baser brethren.

What doth lie above the Ascendant Levels is known by No Man, for too distant to be seen are these lofty perches. A Man would do as well to reach out to take the Moon in his Hand.

If there are yet further Worlds below ours, they are known Not to Man; for they lack the strength to rise to our Realm, and the Mists hide them from our scrying.

Source: John W. Mangrum


  1. I’m loving the AI art! (I guess it’s AI) it is very faithful to the old planescape style! If I’m correct in my assumption, and if you’re willing to tell, what AI are you using and what do you add to your prompts to achieve this style?

    1. Hi there, thanks for the comment! Yep, the art on the site is virtually all AI. I have been experimenting with both Midjourney and Dall-e. The latter is good for complex ideas with many different facets, I tend to feed it a paragraph of text and ask it for a “rough watercolour sketch in the style of 1990s planescape fantasy art”. Midjourney gives you much more control over what you get and I tend to use that more for characters, especially the niji 6 model. With that I sometimes feed it images to emulate the style using the sref command and other times ask for it to draw in the style of a few different artists. Midjourney v6 is better for landscapes, whereas niji6 for people and monsters. I use the keyword “surreal” a lot too, remix images together and do a fair amount of post-editing in Gimp. It’s quite a process… but it’s quite a fun one!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *