The Holy Mountain is a great golden crystal. At its summit is the Utter Light, the inverse of the abyss, the Zenith of all that is good and holy and pure. The mountain acts as a divine prism, splitting and resolving the Utter Light of goodness into its different manifestations. Near the peak of the mountain, as the traveller draws close to the light, thought, deed, nature and even belief itself become evident as facets of a single thing.
The lower slopes of the mountain are dominated by various aspects of the light. Here is the host of Heaven, eternally vigilant against the machinations of the Infernum. There are the palaces of the gods, ruling over the affairs of the cosmos. There are the blessed fields where hope springs up eternal. Beyond lies the Aurora Realm of beauteous truth. All these things are one in the Firmament.
Getting there... and BackEdit
Like most planes, the Firmament is accessible by spells such as gate. However, it is one of the most secure realms – any travellers are soon detected and confronted by celestials or angels. Only those warded against divinations can hope to walk the paths of Heaven unseen. Evil beings are quickly attacked by guardians; the ramparts of the Firmament are well-protected indeed. Portals are common in the two planes closest to the Firmament (the Afterworld and the Questing Ground) and rare elsewhere – the celestial hosts prefer to open temporary gates instead of establishing permanent portals. Still, some of the great bastions of good have at their heart a portal to the Firmament (and even some saints and holy men are, unknowingly, living portals to the heavens). Most travellers never get further than the foot of the mountain, the realm known as the River of Tears. Here, travellers may obtain audiences with the powers that be without risking the strangeness of the
Table: Weight of SinsEdit
|Good/Evil||Effects on Good Characters||Effects on Evil Characters||Strength/Escape Artist DC to overcome|
|Faint||+5 ft. movement||-5 ft. movement||10|
|Moderate||+10 ft. movement||-10 ft. movement||15|
|Strong||Fly 10 ft. (perfect)||-20 ft. movement||20|
|Overwhelming||Fly 30 ft. (perfect)||-30 ft. movement||25|
upper slopes. The River also has the most portals and gates. Those pressing uphill are advised to have a guide or guardian angel, and to ensure that their souls are pure and their consciences clean.
Survival in the FirmamentEdit
The Firmament is not dangerous except to those who bring evil to its unsullied slopes. The atmosphere is breathable, the climate soft and pleasant, the air is pure and bracing. However, the weight of a character’s sins takes on physical form here. Neutral characters are unaffected by this phenomenon. Apply the effects of Table: Weight of Sins on good and evil travellers. See the detect evil spell for the definition of Faint, Moderate, and so on. Being under the influence of protection from good or freedom of movement counters the weight of a character’s sin for the duration of the spell.
Features & PropertiesEdit
|... to Astral||7||Coterminous|
|... to Afterworld||7||Coterminous|
|... to Questing Ground||7||Coterminous|
The Firmament is divided into several layers. The lowest layer, the River of Tears, must be crossed physically, while the Aurora Realm can only be reached by flying. Of the other layers, four – the Hosts of Heaven, the Bright City, the Blessed Fields and the Palaces – are all located on the slopes of the mountain. A traveller who climbs up from the River can walk around the mountain, passing from one layer to another. However, these four layers are also aspects of each other, merely different ways of looking at a single whole. By making a Wisdom check (DC 15), a character can translate from one slope to another. The seventh and final layer, the Zenith, can only be reached by one of the four Guarded Gates at the end of the four slopes.
River of TearsEdit
The River of Tears encircles the base of the Holy Mountain. It springs from the weeping of angels, who sorrow for the injuries and burdens of mortals. White bridges of sandalwood reach over the water from the portals on the far shore, leading from the Vault of Stars and other neighbouring planes to the slopes of the mountain. To drink from the river is to experience the suffering of all things; characters must make a Fortitude save (DC 20) or be overcome with emotion of 1d10 minutes and utterly unable to do anything other than weep (treat as nausea). If this experience is coupled with an atonement, the spell costs no experience.
Most portals and plane shifts targeting this plane exit on the banks of the river. Boats ply the River of Tears – some carry weeping celestials, others are piloted by entities who represent one deity or another. Communes manifest as ripples in the water, while those who seek the wisdom of the gods must hail a passing boat and speak to the celestial it carries. The bridges that cross the River of Tears are all guarded by planetars and trumpet archons.
The Halls of HeavenEdit
Here, the Firmament is a fortress more than anything. The walls are made of white adamantine and holy valor made physical and are garrisoned by hosts of warrior angels, saints, and the holiest of paladins. The fortress stretches higher and higher, but also delves unthinkably deep into the crystal of the Holy Mountain. The forces of the Host constantly practice the arts of war in preparation for the day when Good and Evil will clash. There are always other wars though, petty skirmishes in the grand scheme but still large enough to engulf worlds and celestials are called away to fight for that god. Incursions from the Infernum must be dealt with. There are also the Calls for Succour, the heavenly manifestation of planar ally spells.
The Marshals of the Host are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the Firmament’s forces in the face of these distractions. It is they who also give permission for an angel to respond to a calling or to perform some other task. Many of the Marshals feel that much more discipline and focus is required on the part of the Host and are infuriated by the number of celestials called away from their duties by gods or mortals. The Captains of the Host are extremely powerful angels or celestials who command and lead the forces of the Firmament. Most of the Captains are loyal to one god or another, but nine are dedicated purely to the cause of Uttermost Virtue; these are referred to as the Nine Valors.
Notable features on this layer include the great Proving Grounds, where legions of the exalted dead and companies of angels do battle with illusory or summoned demons, and the Wailing Towers, where all calls for succour are heard and delivered to the appropriate Marshal by lantern archons.
The Bright CityEdit
Although the Halls of Heaven and The Bright City share many qualities, The City serves as the actual Fortress of the Firmament. Both are towering edifices of white adamantine carved into the Holy Mountain. The city, though, is a place of joy and celebration. It is what the Firmament was before the shadow of evil stained the worlds, and therefore is marred by sorrow as well as painted with joy. It is also, simultaneously and eternally, the celebration of the ultimate defeat of evil. Both these versions of the Bright City, the old and the new, have always and will always exist.
On the streets of the Bright City, the honored dead and those celestials who were not made to serve in the Host meet to further the cause of good. Celestials and angels and the like are technically emanations – beings who are facets of the god who created them, and therefore lack free will or truly independent existence. Mortals are beings with souls – they can fall into the Infernum or rise to the Firmament by their own choices. Mortals bring the spark of creativity, of new and better expressions of the powers of Good to Heaven. The geometry of the Bright City is constantly changing, and these changes are reflected in both the codes of the various good religions and the shape of the Holy Mountain itself. Every iteration brings the pure light closer to the material world.
That is not to say, of course, that the Bright City is nothing but an endless debate on moral philosophy and theology. Children run through the streets and laughter is everywhere. Songs dance through the alleyways as living tangles of light. It is not a foolish place, blind to the sorrows of the world; its joy stems from hope, a hope reinforced and informed by the certainty that there are heroes willing to take up arms and work against evil. This is, perhaps, the true nature of the Bright City – to be the wellspring of hope. It cascades through the Blessed Fields and slips into the underground canals into the Questing Grounds, but it begins here, in the steep streets that ascend eternally towards the zenith.
This slope of the Holy Mountain is bathed eternally in the warm sunshine of the early autumn. The crystal surface cannot be seen here, as it is covered in a riotous tangle of growth. Forests and jungles are intertwined with fields of grain and flowers. Beasts such as the ubiquitous celestial badgers stalk through the undergrowth, but these fields are free from suffering and hunger. Celestials walk among the fields, hunting without harming and farming for the pure joy of the labor.
The flowers of heaven are dreams of virtue and inspiration; they are gathered and brought to the Plane of Dreams by messenger angels, and are there scattered onto the Dream Sea. Grain and grapes are gathered also, to be made into bread and wine for heroes’ feasts. At the edge of one greensward are the stables and corrals of the steeds of paladins. The grooms here are horse-spirits.
The Palaces of the GodsEdit
Those deities who make their home on this plane maintain great castles on the upper slopes of the mountain. Many of these castles are made into the shape of animals, and roam with stony intent across the mountainside. Others have massive gates facing off towards the Godholds in the Afterworld, and towards the Holygates in the Positive Energy Plane. Each god has its own followers and outsiders, and the land around its Palace is usually either Divinely Morphic or even a full-scale pocket realm with its own traits and qualities.
The Aurora Realm hangs above the Holy Mountain. It is an iconic realm, a region of prophecy, visions, and of revelation. Signs and portents hang in the skies of heaven, to be glimpsed by those with the devotion or madness to see them. There is little in the Aurora Realm for most folk; only those who prefer to experience the divine through a cascade of bizarre images and intimations (mages, mostly) travel through the Aurora. The only common denizens are lillends and lammasu. A character in the Aurora Realm doubles the effectiveness of divination spells such as augury, legend lore, or vision.
At the peak of the mountain is a shining silver light. No mortal can approach within a thousand miles of the light, and no celestial, within five hundred. Who knows how close the gods can walk?
Heaven holds few dangers save for those who are evil – the true danger is within.
Good characters in the Firmament are faced with the perfect nature of their alignment, the ultimate standard by which to judge themselves. For those who have not been paragons of goodness (and anyone who believes such a thing has failed, for self-doubt is a necessary component of true virtue – without self-doubt, there is no possibility for improvement), the Firmament may challenge their worthiness to count themselves as truly good. A good character may be tempted by the rewards of the Firmament, with relief from his burdens, with the chance to turn his quest or his duty over to another, seemingly more suited guardian. An angel might offer to take the place of a paladin on some holy mission, or a long-dead cleric suggest that he could return from the dead to take on the duties of a cleric character. Accepting this replacement is never the correct choice and is never offered when the paladin’s mission is obviously too trivial for the angel or when the mission could only be completed by the angel. The key to the test is that the character is offered the chance to turn a burden he could bear over to another, when a major part of being truly good is doing all that you can for others.
If a character fails in this test, then the Dungeon Master should keep a close eye on alignment ‘drift’ – the character has shown that he lacks faith in his own virtue, and might slowly drift towards neutrality or a less demanding method of doing good. A character who succeeds in the test has had his moral strength tested in the crucible – his alignment will not drift, though he may still fail. Bonus experience points for roleplaying should be given either way.
As the entire Firmament is simply different refractions of the Light, there are few distinct locations, nor have many travellers returned from its brightness to speak of the geography of Heaven.
The Net of StarsEdit
The Net of Stars is a wide pool in which the night sky gleams even at noon. The constellations sacred to the powers of good glow especially brightly within it. The net is a portal to the Vault of Stars, but this is the least of its properties. The gods cast their constellations like a net across the sky in aeons past, to catch souls like fish. At the end of each age or during terrible disasters, they lift the net out of the pool to gather those souls that are as yet unjudged, but are currently aligned to good. It is something of a cheat, a pre-emptive redemption of the masses. Still, the Net of Stars is a merciful boon to those slain by war or disaster; instead of having to wait in the dull grey corridors of Twilight Mecca, they are taken straight up into the Firmament. If the Net of Stars were destroyed, or worse, stolen, it would be a great boon to the forces of evil. The net is also capable of conjuring up Reannan.
The Tree is a rather ordinary-looking, medium-sized tree, usually an oak or ash tree. There is a rock or even a bench beneath it. The tree’s branches curl protectively over the seat, which is large enough to seat two (or more, depending on the season and the needs of the tree). Anyone sitting on the seat may command the tree to travel to any point on the Material Plane. When a traveller meets a sage or a long-dead but inspirational hero, it will be under the tree. The tree returns to its customary place in the Firmament after delivering its passengers. Anyone within 30 feet of the tree comes under the effects of an owl’s wisdom spell. Furthermore, a hidden bowl in the tree conceals a cache of useful weapons, healing potions and so on.
Almoner is the largest ship to sail the River of Tears. It begs for alms at all ports and bridges around the foothills of the Mountain, then plane shifts to more unfortunate realms to dispense the bounty of heaven. Almoner is captained by a crew of living penitents – those who have done such terrible, unholy deeds that they are damned indeed. Risking life and limb, soul and sanity aboard Almoner is the only way any of them shall atone and set foot upon the heavenly shores. Swift Almoner is especially hated by the Emissaries of Hell and by their fiendish patron. It has been seen on dozens of seas, from the wild waters of the Material Plane to the burning oceans of the Infernum.
The current captain of Almoner is a cleric named Jathi; formerly an evil cleric, she betrayed her own evil god in an attempt to seize his power. Now, she is hunted by all the hells and rival powers, as well as her former cabal.
The denizens of the Firmament include angels, archons, avorals, celestials, half-celestials, ghaeles, leonals, reannan, titans, and other divine beings. Each of these has their own unique duties in the Firmament.
Table: The Ordering of the FirmamentEdit
|Astral Deva||Guardianship of Mortals||River of Tears, Bright City|
|Planetar||War||Halls of Heaven|
|Solar||Champions of Right||Any, Palaces of the Gods|
|Lantern||Servants and lesser messengers||Usually Bright City, Palaces of the Gods|
|Hound||Defense of the Firmament||Halls of Heaven, River of Tears|
|Trumpet||Greater messengers and Heralds||Bright City, Blessed Fields|
|Ghaele||Inspiration and Guidance||Blessed Fields, Bright City, Aurora Realm|
|Avoral||Watching the enemy||Blessed Fields, Aurora Realm, River of Tears|
|Leonal||Righteous Anger||Blessed Fields, Halls of Heaven|
|Lillends||Beauty||Blessed Fields, Bright City, Aurora Realm|
|Titans||Agents of the Gods||Palaces of the Gods, Bright City|