Step through a portal to the Grand Orrery, and on first glance the land looks just like the Material Plane. There are rivers and fields, mountains and seas. A warm light shines from the south, where a bright sun hangs strangely low in the sky. Then the traveller looks up, to see a massive brass sphere pass far, far overhead. Beyond this sphere, high in the clouded sky, are other objects, glittering platforms of fire or green earth, moving along shining celestial tracks; bright icons and regalia of the gods, the constellations formed not of distinct stars, but engraved onto huge metal plates. A face wider than an ocean smiles down from above. This whole world is artificial, a model of the multiverse built of brass and mithril.
The great disc of the Material Plane moves on one step; the heavens realign. The portal behind the traveller vanishes, to be replaced by another elsewhere in the Orrery. Understand the movements of the Grand Orrery, and you understand the multiverse.
There is a percentage chance equal to the total of a plane’s Size plus Accessibility traits that a portal is currently open between it and the Orrery. Roll on the following table to see how long such a portal remains open.
Most portals in the Orrery open on the Disc of the Material. Predicting when or where a portal opens requires plotting the course of the various components of the Orrery – this is done with a Knowledge (architecture and engineering) check at DC 30. Having five ranks Knowledge (local: the Grand Orrery) or Knowledge (the planes) each give a +2 synergy bonus to these checks.
Getting there… and BackEdit
The Grand Orrery is a demiplane in its own right, so it can be reached by a gate or plane shift. Portals also lead from the Astral Plane to the Orrery, or a door cast from the dream of an Orrery resident. As the plane is contained within the Great Realm, spells like ethereal jaunt cannot easily reach the Orrery. There are no natural portals or minglings between the Orrery and any other planes – the plane is entirely artificial, constructed aeons ago. There are, however, numerous constructed portals. The Orrery is one of the best-known nexus planes, so many wizards and travellers have built methods for quickly reaching it.
As the Grand Orrery’s discs and plates move through their various configurations, portals open between the Orrery and other planes. These portals are distinctive – they are liquid ovals of molten brass, surrounded by a baroque metal hoop. At any time, the Orrery is connected to hundreds of location throughout the planes. Unlike other nexus points, which usually connect to existing gates, doors or other apertures, the portals of the Orrery simply open into empty air. Returning to the Orrery via its portals requires that the traveller knows when and where another Orrery portal will open.
Features & PropertiesEdit
|... to all planes||7||Coterminous|
On the Nature of the Grand Orrery
The Orrery is a working model of the planes – the various sections move of their own accord, following the progress of the planes through the astral medium. The alignment of the planes creates the Orrery Portals. While the natural state of the machine is to precisely reflect the current state of the multiverse, it can be overridden to forcibly open a particular Orrery Portal. These can be done using the controls of the Orrery (see the Rings of the Orrery and the Neverbuilt City) or by physically dragging one plate or elemental Orbit into position. The Orrery resets itself as soon as possible.
The builders of the Orrery are unknown. When the machine was first discovered, it was empty of life save for a few decaying forests on the Disc of the Material. It is generally supposed that the builders were humanoid, as the cyclopean statues and art that adorns the machine depicts humanoid faces. Such theories, of course, ignore the sheer scale and alien magic of the Orrery…
The Grand Orrery is essentially a model of the planes. It is not an exact model, nor is it to scale. The largest single section is the Disc of the Material, a flat circle roughly two hundred miles across
in the lower part of the Orrery. The Disc sits on a bulbous base, which contains whatever magical engines drive the Orrery.
The Spine of the Orrery is a great arc of the brass and mithril alloy that makes up more of the machine. The Spine curves up from the base, describing a three-quarter-circle over the Disc of the Material. Three Elemental Orbits – huge circular tracks – rotate through the Spine over the Disc. Each Orbit corresponds to one of the elemental planes of Air, Earth and Fire, while the Water Orbit grows from the central spike of the Disc. Three elemental platforms ride along each Orbit, moving like lowhanging stars through the sky of the Orrery.
The Orbit of Elemental Air was broken in some ancient war and has collapsed. One section has fallen onto the Disc below, while the rest hangs like a crippled appendage from the Spine. At the top of the Spine, directly above the central spike of the Disc, is the Moon of the Orrery, a slowly spinning device that glows a pearlescent white when aligned with the Positive Energy Plane or a sullen black when Negatively aligned. Beyond the moons, the Spine curves into a crooked end, like a bishop’s crosier. Here is found the infamous Neverbuilt City.
A web of metallic filaments also extends from the Spine to form a sphere around the whole Orrery. Dozens of small plates corresponding to the various Outer Planes and major demiplanes move along these filaments. Unlike the Disc of the Material or the elemental platforms, these plates are generally uninhabited, although the occasional crazed hermit or isolationist mage makes his home on a field of runic brass that hangs dozens of miles above the slowly rotating ground.
The Disc of the Material is carried by three great statues, which themselves stand on the base. These statues are a dragon, a pegasus, and a griffon. If the Spine of the Orrery is counted as north on the disc, then the dragon stands in the uttermost south. Its mouth gapes open, disgorging a beam of fiery light. This light tracks from east to west each day on the Orrery.
Seasons and Weather on the OrreryEdit
The Disc of the Material slowly rotates around the central spike. The warmest regions are in the ‘south’ of the Orrery, close to the fires of the dragon. When a location on the Disc rotates around to the north, it is plunged into winter. Although the disc is only two hundred miles wide, the lack of air currents makes the temperature difference much more extreme. The only major winds are those caused by the hot air rising in the south, drawing air from more northerly climes. The presence of the central spike means that these winds tend to come from the territories of the north-east and north-west.
The edges of the Disc are inhabited only by nomadic tribes. In the summer, the edges are scorched by the fire of the dragon; in winter, they are crushed under the eternal glaciers that have grown on and fallen from the Air Orbit. The Orbit of Elemental Water is unlike the other elemental orbits; while Earth, Air and Fire are great metallic circles each carrying three platforms, the Orbit of Water consists of three huge globes sprouting like strange fruit from the central spike. Two of these great globes contain oceans; the third is broken. Rain is sprinkled from these globes in regular rainstorms. Each of the three globes sprays its contents over a third of the Disc. As one of the globes is broken, a whole third of the Disc is a dry, parched desert.
The terrain of the Disc is similar to that of the Material Plane, with mountains, plains, and forests. Rainwater tends to flow towards the center; rivers twine together until they reach the Spireward Sea surrounding the central spike. Waters are drawn up through the spike and channelled back into the globes of the Water Orbit, conserving water (although these imprisoned oceans are filled to the brim in the Water Renewal). The four Renewals are an annual event on the Orrery, corresponding to the equinoxes and solstices. In the Water Renewal, gates to the Plane of Water open inside the Water Orbit, refilling the oceans. At the time of the Earth Renewal, gates open on the three platforms of the Earth Orbit, shining green light across the face of the Disc and causing plants to sprout. The Fire Renewal is the most dramatic of all – gates on the fire platforms project beams of searing flame into the mouth of the southern dragon, refuelling its internal furnaces for the next year. There is no Air Renewal any more, but the glaciers in the north quake and crack every autumn, as if mighty winds are howling deep beneath the ice.
The Disc of the MaterialEdit
The Disc of the Material has all the landscapes of the wide world crammed into a small land no more than fifty leagues across. The terrain is a bizarre patchwork; here a hill torn up by the roots from its original location and planted next to a carefully tended orchard ripped from the soil and placed in the midst of the wilderness; there half a village, or a single tower from a mighty fortress, or a drying marsh that was once a lake. Once, the Disc of the Material was no more than a flat metal plain, featureless and blank. Every towering mountain, every hill and valley, every tree and shrub, every shovelful of dirt on the Disc was stolen from another plane and brought through a portal. Most of this epic theft was committed aeons ago, but constant maintenance and additions are required. The landscape of the Disc is unstable; a river might be deposited in the dry desert, or a mountain atop soil that cannot bear its weight. Maps change with each year. The only constant places are located around the center, where there are bastions of solid stone on the shores of the inner sea. Travellers cannot ignore the changing landscape of the outer disc, of course, as Orrery Portals can open anywhere.
There are nomadic tribes out in the shifting lands, gypsy traders who track the patterns of the artificial stars of the Orrery and know when the portals open. They slip from world to world, selling trinkets and wonders from every plane. These tribes are a mix of bloodlines; the essence of fiends and celestials melded with elemental strains and the hot blood of humans. The tribes avoid the desert regions for the most part. The nomads know to keep out of the games played in the Neverbuilt City, but they occasionally take pity on a slave and may offer advice or even an escape route.
The drier regions of the Disc are known as the Varikah Wastes. The lack of rain and the death of any plants that would hold the soil together have conspired to turn the region into a dustbowl. The Wastes are home to a civilization of hostile lizard folk, whose reaction to most trespassers and travellers is to eat them. The lizardfolk have numerous powerful clerics of a deity named Devourer of Worlds. Fortunately for the rest of the Orrery, they seem to have no interest in expanding their little kingdom, preferring instead to build towers to watch the movement of the heavens and to dig into the mechanisms beneath the Disc of the Material.
The Nomad TribesEdit
Seven tribes, comprised of a cross-section of sentient races, wander the outer Disc, scavenging in dungeons and towers torn from other planes for use in the Games or using the lesser-known portals to visit other planes.
The Peregrin Tribe are famed travellers; barbarians who have a better instinctive understanding of the planes than the best sages and scholars. They have Knowledge (the planes) as a racial skill, and may use their Wisdom modifier with the skill instead of Intelligence. They are among the best guides in the planes.
The Broken Chain are escapees from the Games of the Neverbuilt City. They are the one tribe who regularly interfere with the Games. As the movements of the Orrery are partially controlled from the Neverbuilt City, the Broken Chain are disliked by many of the other inhabitants of the Orrery. However, they are quick to recruit new members from those abducted for the Games, and so are militarily the strongest tribe.
The Rhytan are Fey-blooded; the Plane of Dreams and the borderlands of Faerie are rarely contacted by the Orrery, but the Rhytan are always there when they do. The eerie tribe are masters of prognostication and fate; they have ties to the Sect of the Spider, but whether the sect are manipulating the tribe or dancing to their tune remains to be seen.
The Harantine are peerless warriors, practiced in the fighting arts of scores of planes. They act as mercenaries when their purses are light, but their true love is combat and swordplay.
The Daughters of Ash are scavengers and orphans. Most are children or youths, who were caught when the Orrery scooped up their homes. Others fled the towns of the inner Disc, seeking a new life in the outer wilderness. They raid other planes for supplies and weapons, thieving in a hundred markets before running away to their ever-changing neverland.
The tribe of the Bulreen are the most civilized of the seven tribes. They wander the lands closest to the inner disc, serving as guides to the outer portals. The Bulreen nomads have strong ties to the Combine.
Finally, the tribe of the Ulthoon are ruled by a caste of necromancers. They have great hosts of zombie slaves to carry their tents and packs through the shifting terrain of the outer disc.
The Inner DiscEdit
A ring of ancient mountains surrounds the inner disc. As the Disc of the Material curves in towards the center, all the water poured from the Water Orbit rushes through tunnels and narrow canyons. The cities and fortresses of the inner disc are located on the heights above these channels. The inner disc is quite heavily populated – the slopes leading down to the lake are filled with villas, towers and chateaus belonging to various planar travellers and local lords.
By agreement with the lords of the Neverbuilt City, the inner disc’s portals are not to be used in the Games. Any house champions who manage to cross the peaks or the river channels are considered to have escaped the Games. The rivers and the rimward side of the mountains are therefore stocked with guardian beasts. All champions wear the talismans of the house which claims them, and the monsters are trained to attack only creatures carrying such talismans, but there are always accidents and failures.
Like most of the cities in the Grand Orrery, Omphalos is a city of convenience. It is a port on every sea. It is not especially pleasant, nor is the climate conducive to good health. Those who come to live there do so because they need swift travel to a dozen planes, not because they share any common beliefs or ethos. The common folk of Omphalos see nothing odd in dealing with celephates, tieflings, genies, or even – in rare cases – the more pleasant fiends.
The Navel of the World is open to all. In Omphalos, the laws are decided by the Watcher and his council of nine advisors. The three wealthiest citizens and three randomly chosen citizens serve on the council for periods of three years; the other three members are selected from the citizenry by the other six councillors on the grounds of merit or ability, and serve for six months. The laws are enforced by a small city watch; the city also hires mercenaries from the Faceless Legion to defend against more dangerous troublemakers.
The Combine has a great deal of influence in Omphalos, but all the Planar Organizations save perhaps the Planewrights have agents here.
Omphalos (Large City): AL N; 40,000 gp limit; Assets 30,000,000 gp; Pop 15,000; Integrated (mix of all races). Power Centers: The Watcher, Jadeel Na’linthel (CN), The Golem Thaddek (LN), Combine Agent Hao Pult (NG), 134 of the Faceless Legion.
Most travellers never need to pass beyond the borders of the inner disc. Orrery Portals appear on the shores and the sea leading to most major planes. Only those seeking a specific, obscure, or lost plane need travel into the dangerous hinterlands of the disk.
The oldest and largest city here is Omphalos. The decaying undercity beneath Omphalos was built by Elethoi’s folk, the Mairin, when they first arrived in the Orrery. The new city was begun by those fleeing the Games, but as the fame of the Orrery grew, other travellers found their way to the plane. The ruling Mairin attempted to dislodge the ‘rebellious escapees’ from the ruins of Omphalos, but the indirect clashes between the people of Omphalos and gated troops soon became bogged down in a war of dimensional locks and dismissals. A rival faction in the Neverbuilt City took the opportunity to move ahead in the Games, overtake the ruling house and claim the city. They signed the Pact of Omphalos, declaring that the inner disc was not to be used in the Games and secretly agreed that the new rulers would also receive a cut of all trade in Omphalos.
A city of portals, Omphalos has no walls – why bother with fortifications, when the enemy might walk through a gate in the market square? Instead, tall spires of ivory rise above the low gambrel roofs; these towers keep watch for portals opening, and guards are usually dispatched to ensure that the portal does not let through dangerous monsters. The master of the city bears the title of Watcher of Omphalos, a reference to the time when the primary activity in the city was looking for opening portals. Now, the mages have calculated almanacs and concordances, and Omphalos has settled down to a comfortable middle age as one of the great trade cities of the cosmos.
On the far side of the Spireward Sea from Omphalos is the port town of Iseby, ruled by a drunken titan named Cay. Iseby lacks Omphalos’ knowledge of the portals, but has a better navy. Other small villages are dotted around the coast; some trade with the nomad tribes, some farm the mountain slopes or fish the Spireward Sea, while still others are the holdings of adventurers or travellers who have made the Orrery their home.
The Spireward SeaEdit
The Spireward Sea is unlike any normal ocean; to prove this bold statement, the following facts are offered. Firstly, the sea is very small, being no more than seventy-five miles wide at its widest extent. Secondly, it is fed from every direction by fast-flowing rivers. Thirdly, the heart of the Spireward Sea would be a great whirlpool, caused by the confluence of these rivers and the spin of the Disc of the Material, if it were not for the great Central Spike rising from the exact center of the disc. Fourthly, it is inhabited by tojanidas and water mephits. Fifthly, and most importantly, most other seas do not contain gigantic brass pipes that suck up thousands of gallons of water each day and pump it dozens of miles into the air to the overhanging globes. An especially brave captain can even sail his ship into one of the pipes and ride the rising waters up to the strange enclosed seas within those globes, and from there onto the Plane of Water. Orrery Portals open along the Spireward Sea, just as they open elsewhere in the Grand Orrery. Trading ships pay particular attention to portals that connect sea to sea, cramming their cargo holds with goods that are unthinkably rare on other planes.
The floor of the Spireward Sea is the one of the two places on the Disc of the Material where the original surface of the disc can be seen – almost everywhere else, the surface is covered with a patchwork of mountains, hills, forests, and other forms of occluding dirt. (The other place is, of course, the extreme rim of the disc, and that is scored and abraded due to contact with the fallen Air Orbit.) Divers and merfolk have described the shining metal plain as being engraved with a complex pattern of angles, lines and other marks, which doubtless had huge significance when the Grand Orrery was built.
The Central SpikeEdit
The Central Spike rises from the exact center of the disc; it is the axle on which the world turns. The Spike is unthinkably huge, being no less than two miles in diameter and approximately thirty miles tall. A spiral staircase (scaled for giants or titans) twines around the spike, but there are all sorts of tubes and quick-moving platforms inside which allow for quicker travel.
Three-quarters of the way up, three huge metal struts fashioned to resemble maidens branch off from the spike; these struts support the three globes of the Orbit of Water. The pipes drawing water up from the Spireward Sea run through these struts. Past this level, the spike narrows precipitously, angling inwards to a single needle-sharp point. A few hundred feet below the needle, though, is one of the most precipitous and vertiginous places in the whole Orrery. A ramshackle platform of wood and scrap metal is strapped, lashed and glued to the spike. This platform is the home of a gnomish technomancer, Padriacalon Iseuthemithis, who has spent much of his life studying the Orrery. Telescopes and aethervanes jostle for space with Padriacalon’s tent, nets of food, and stacks of books. The gnome has a helm of teleportation, but it is bulky and unreliable. He usually travels up and down the Spike by climbing down the staircase over the course of several weeks, but has been known to feather fall.
Directly above the spike floats a spherical device the size of a small castle; the heart of the Orrery. Portals flicker everywhere around the heart, faster than the eye can follow. Every passing instant opens new doors to other planes. A flyer trying to reach the heart would have to thread a path through this storm of gates. Not even teleportation or dimensional anchors are of use here; there are simply too many portals.
The Orbit of WaterEdit
For the common inhabitants of the Grand Orrery, the Orbit of Water is the only important elemental orbit. It consists of three great globes that hang from the Central Spike. The globes are held aloft by statues of maidens, who carry the globes on their heads. The maidens appear to be human or perhaps half-elven; certainly, there is an eldritch quality to their smiling faces. The globes rotate in synch with the disc below, sprinkling rain on the landscape.
The globe rotates to do so – the upper hemisphere is pierced with channels and gratings that allow the water to fall through. (One curious trait is that these gratings filter the salt from the water before it falls. A thick encrustation of salt builds up on the inside of the globe, which must be constantly chipped away and cleared by crab-golems that scuttle eternally around the inside of the globe.) Inside two of the three globes are enclosed seas, lightless and violently churned by the movements of the globes. Portals to the Plane of Elemental Water refill these globes annually. There are colonies inside the globes; things that dwell in the lightless depths of the ocean find in the dark confines of the metal globes a fine home. The portals to the Water Plane remain active all year round and can be opened with a touch.
One of the globes is broken. Its portals are shut and dark, its enclosed seas are dry. Great gashes mar its surface. A kraken of great power slumbers within the shattered globe, its tentacles coiled around tablets of ancient stone.
The Orbit of AirEdit
The weapons made by the nomads from the scavenged debris are known as Shard Blades. Working the brass/mithral alloy is beyond their arts, so they simply attach bone or wooden handles to suitable shavings. These weapons weigh half as much as normal blades, and deal an extra dice of damage – a Shard Blade longsword deals 2d8 damage instead of 1d8. However, as the blades are found, not made, they are never Masterwork items and therefore cannot be made into magical weapons (although they can be targeted by magic weapon spells).
Shard Blades are traded for 500 gp/pound more than their normal cost. Only slashing weapons can be Shard Blades.
The Orbit of Air was shattered in the Mairin civil war. One of its three platforms fell upon the Disc of the Material, sliding down the Spine in a catastrophic fall. As the platform is on the far side of the disc from the only major heat source on the Orrery, it has frozen. An eternal glacier grows atop the ruined platform. The platform is trapped between the Spine and the rotating disc, so it scrapes a five-mile-wide section of the edge of the disc clean of all matter. The constant abrasions have cut gouges into the mithril-alloy surface of the disc and sometimes the movement of the whole Orrery is arrested when one of these wounds catches on the ice. When the rotating disc breaks free and the Orrery resets, the shock of sudden movement sends earthquakes through the already-unstable land. The Harantine and Bulreen tribes search for shards of disc-material, which they make into weapons.
In the depths of the glacier lies the town of Drakholt. The town is surrounded with permanent walls of fire to hold back the ice. The town is as far from the sun as one can get on the Orrery, so the only ambient light comes from the flickering flames of the walls. Drakholt is a refuge from the Games of the Neverbuilt City; the sullen folk of the town search for ways to attack the city or shut down the Orrery’s Portals on which the city depends. They have sent explorers into the Spine that rises above their icy retreat and even into the machine labyrinth inside the Base.
The other two platforms and the broken half of the Orbit have fallen. One platform landed on the base, and contains the ruins of a glittering cloud castle. The other platform passed out of the Orrery entirely, and now drifts through the Astral Plane, where it has been forged into a barge by titans.
The Spine of the Orrery arches like a tremendous world tree over the disc. At it rises, the two surviving Orbits of Earth and Fire and the Web of the Heavens branch off the Spine. It is made of the same metal as the disc below, but every inch of the Spine is marked with runes and gauges. Three huge faces stare down from the underside of the arch onto the land below. Travellers have found tunnels and dungeons inside the Spine, including hollow shafts hundreds of miles long. At least one of these eerie, abandoned corridors leads to the Neverbuilt City, but the labyrinths of the Spine have never been accurately mapped.
Rings of the OrreryEdit
These curious artifact rings have been found in ancient vaults in the Orrery. They are simple bands made of the same metal as the rest of the machine. Each ring is attuned to one of the great statues or faces that decorate important parts of the Orrery, such as the underside of the Spine, the water globes, or the Three. The wearer can see through the icon’s eyes and even magnify the things he sees, allowing a wearer viewing the land from a statue hundreds of miles above to peer through cloud layers and see a traveller walking below. The rings may have other powers to control their respective icons, allowing the wearer to influence the rainfall or the opening and closing of portals.
The moons of the Orrery rotate slowly, attuning to the Positive and Negative Energy Planes in turn. When the moon is aligned to one plane or the other, it becomes charged with energy. Inside, the moon is inhabited by alternating colonies of positive and negative creatures, who slip away to their home planes as their moon fades. They share a city of grey stone built inside the moon, and yet never see their neighbors.
The Orbit of EarthEdit
The Orbit of Earth is composed of a narrow ring of metal extending from the Spine all the way around the Orrery and back again. Three platforms move along this track, corresponding to three sections of the Earth Plane. Each platform contains a permanent portal to Earth. One platform is the lair of the only dragon known to make its permanent home in the Grand Orrery, a red great wyrm named Ruin who is allied with the forces of Chaos. Another is the garden of the Orrery, a magical orchard walled with green-glass lenses that project life energy down onto the plains below. The third platform is dark and quiescent, but seems to contain some sort of industrial complex. A character could fly or teleport to the Orbit, or even climb the Spine and then walk along the track for many thousands of miles to reach the platforms.
The Orbit of FireEdit
The Fire Orbit moves in a wider circle than Earth. Like the Earth Orbit, it carries three platforms, the only stars in the night sky of the Orrery. The three platforms each contain permanent portals to the Plane of Fire, which occasionally spit out gouts of flame. All three platforms have huge valves on their underside, carved to resemble coiled serpents that unwind when the platforms spit elemental fire into the belly of the dragon. One platform plays host to an outpost of azer, who use the Orrery for trading. The middle platform is malfunctioning, and the gate there leaks molten metal and stone down onto the disc below. The third platform of fire is known as the Beacon; it is held by those who oversee the Games of the Neverbuilt City, and blasts of flame signal the start of the games.
A network of local portals exists within the Orrery, letting a character teleport from one section of the Disc to another, or from the Disc to a location within the Spine or one of the elemental Orbits. Using these portals requires one of the Rings of the Orrery, or a lesser ring that does not control anything other than granting access to the portals.
The various Outer Planes and major demiplanes are represented in the mechanism of the Orrery by metal plates engraved with a symbol corresponding to the plane. These plates are attached to the Spine by a web of filaments. At night, the lights of the fire platforms or the moon reflect off the edges of the runes, creating a sky full of constellations. Astromancers watching these artificial constellations can predict the relative positions, accessibility, and states of the planes.
The Neverbuilt CityEdit
As above, so below; the patchwork terrain of the Disc of the Material is reflected in the city above. The fabled Neverbuilt City is located on a wide flange at the extreme end of the Spine, directly above the dragon statue. Not a single part of the Neverbuilt City was made by its inhabitants, the Mairin. Instead, every building, every palace, every alleyway and flagstone was stolen from another plane. The city is a magnificent monstrosity to look upon. Everyone from beggar to lord dwells in a glorious mansion.
In some places, where a particular family holds sway over a whole district of the city, the buildings are stolen with an eye for harmony and space, but in most of the city the architecture is a ghastly mix. Gothic castles jostle for space with wyldling treetowers or bulbous marble palaces, and streets weave nervously between the
Fear and Loathing in the Neverbuilt CityEdit
Almost any common item can be obtained in the Neverbuilt City for free. Portals sweep through markets and treasuries on hundreds of worlds, scooping up goods and depositing them in palatial storehouses where they are sorted by slaves. Anyone who desires an apple or a candlestick or a sword or a slave can take what they want from the storehouse – there is always more on the other side of the portal. Rarer items are bartered for; magic items and drugs are the most common trade goods. Use opposed Charisma, Diplomacy, or Intimidate checks; for each point of difference between the totals, adjust the final price up or down by 5%.
unplanned monuments. The palace of the Neverbuilt City lies below the city streets, on the underside of the Spine. The palace’s great emerald windows look down upon the whole Orrery. In the heart of the palace is a model of the whole Orrery, a precisely scaled-down copy of the whole machine. This model can be physically manipulated to reconfigure the Orrery and cause portals to open. Only the court astromancers of the Mairin are permitted to touch the model, but most of the major families have either bribed an astromancer or two or have placed spells on the model to manipulate it.
Just as they dwell in the most magnificent homes imaginable, the citizens of the Neverbuilt City feast upon the fruits and harvests of all the planes. They must be careful – while the model in the palace could be set to open a portal in any treasure vault or king’s hall, the Mairin cannot risk a direct confrontation with any of the great planar powers. They have the vast power of the Orrery, but their numbers are still few. If they angered a cabal of archmages or a deity, they could not defend themselves with any real hope of success. Therefore, they only steal from those who could not trace the theft – a country baron might open his wine cellar or his granary to find it emptied. There is therefore little need in the city for any sort of crafts or trade; the only distractions to be found are the famous Games of the Neverbuilt City. Watching and betting on these games under the influence of all the intoxicants and narcotics in existence, the Neverbuilt City is drenched in debauchery and decadence.
The main drug used here is power. The family whose champions win the Games can claim various political offices in the city. Only those of Mairin blood can sponsor a stable of contestants in the Games, although over the centuries a few other races have taken up residence in the city and even married into the various Mairin families.
There are roughly two dozen Mairin families who have the resources and influence to make a strong showing in the Games. The key to success in the Games is information; the Mairin employ agents to find suitable candidates for the stables. Heroes and adventurers who distinguish themselves are marked for abduction and used in the Games. Victory in the Games brings more influence in the Neverbuilt City and greater access to the model of the Orrery (and hence more wealth, more agents and a better position in the next Games).
Most of the noble families claim descent from Elethoi of the Sapphire Book, the magistrix who first found the Orrery. The others are the old Mairin nobility or either especially ambitious bloodlines
The Neverbuilt City (Small City)
AL CN; - gp limit; Assets: A quite absurd amount of gp; Pop 10,000; Mixed (80% Mairin, 20% other). Power Centers: The Noble Families (CN), the Magpie Throne (CE), The Court Astromancers (LN), Scions of the Sapphire Book (N), Wardens of the Games (LN)
who did especially well in the early Games of the Neverbuilt City. The various families vie for political office and control of the fabled Magpie Throne. As for Elethoi herself, she left the Neverbuilt City after the first Games proved their worth. She was said to be sickened by the greed shown by her kin, and preferred to go in search of the secrets of the Orrery. She was an extremely skilled mage, who could doubtless have extended her life through lichdom or alchemy if she chose. Travellers in the depths of the Grand Orrery sometimes report seeing a beautiful woman dressed in flowing robes but when moving to investigate are met only by a glittering sapphire light.
The Games of the Neverbuilt CityEdit
The Games of the Neverbuilt City are played on the outer reaches of the Disc of the Material. Each noble house of the City abducts adventurers and warriors from whatever plane they wish. The houses also acquire suitable tasks for these champions – a castle might be taken from one land, a gemstone plucked from the Plane of Earth and placed at the heart of the fortress, and a selection of monsters grabbed from Mal to be strewn about its halls. The champions of one house would then try the challenges of another.
A complex weighting system ensures that challenges cannot be impossible or too easy. The house that accumulates the most points over the course of the Games wins status in the Neverbuilt City; positions in government, influence over the Orrery’s controls, or even Elethoi’s throne. From the perspective of an unfortunate champion in one of these games, the adventurer is suddenly gated to a strange plane, where he is forced to wear a talisman bearing the sign of the house that abducted him. He is told of the task that he must complete – if he refuses, he is punished or told that the only way to get home is to comply. Successful champions are usually added to the stable of the house that chose them, and are used again and again to compete in the games. The houses keep track of their champions using scry spells.
The Three are the triad of massive statues that support the Disc of the Material. In the ‘south’ of the disc, the Dragon’s mighty jaws contain a fiery light that is the Orrery’s sun. The slopes of the Dragon can be climbed, but the metal is painfully hot to the touch because of the fires within. Elementals and salamanders claim the Dragon as their home. The huge mechanisms that channel the flames into the mouth and move the massive head from left to right require access tunnels for maintenance, so there are numerous underground complexes within the sweltering heat of the south.
The Pegasus stands in the ‘northwest’ region – its wings are outstretched and form a mountain-range of white-enamel that the disc rolls past. Its head is bowed low over the disk, so low that tall trees brush against its mane. The mouth of the Pegasus is articulated, suggesting that at some point in the distant past, it could speak. Like the Dragon, there is a network of tunnels and chambers within the Pegasus statue. It is inhabited by a couatl philosopher named Telatotl who studies the skies of the Orrery, attempting to discern the future.
Finally, the Griffon is located along the northeast of the disc. One massive claw is outstretched, reaching for the Central Spike. This claw is articulated, like the Pegasus’ mouth, and there is an overwhelmingly strong aura of magical energy, the same sort of emanation that is left after a mage throws a spell. The Griffon could be used as a proxy for a spellcaster, magnifying the somatic gestures of a spell to cast it over the whole Orrery. How this can be accomplished, though, is surely a secret lost somewhere in the labyrinth of tunnels beneath its surface.
Folk living within the wondrous machine of the Grand Orrery rarely stop to consider that theirs is an artificial world; they are distracted by the latest deaths in the Games or the changes in the heavens or tribal politics. Even when they realize the nature of the world, that the rotating disc and constant flux of the portals are the product of ancient engines, they rarely think about what drives these machines. There is more space, and many more miles of corridor and chamber in the bulbous base of the Orrery than there is on the surface of the Disc of the Material or in the Spine. The great labyrinths in the mountainous Three are no more than utility rooms compared to the vast complex that lies beneath the disc. The base of the Orrery contains titanic arcane engines that throb and pulse with the slow rhythm of the moving planes. Elethoi walked here, long ago, searching for the Builders.
The main hazard in the Orrery is not a natural phenomenon (if anything is natural in a machine world) – it is the Games. The Mairin are not above kidnapping random travellers and ordering them into a monster-infested ruin, nor is it unheard of for monsters recruited for the Games to wander off and attack settlements or tribes on the Disc.
The movement of the various components of the Orrery does build up a potent static charge of magic. Flying more than a mile above the Disc or one of the platforms or attempting to teleport through this space is hazardous. A teleport effect, even a greater teleport, always uses the ‘seen once’ line of the teleport spell. A flying creature is dealt 1d6 points of electrical damage per round of flight; both the chance of going astray and the electrical damage increases dramatically around the magical powerful zones of the Orrery, such as the Central Spike or the Three.
The Orrery contains creatures from every plane of existence; monsters caught when a section of landscape was taken through a portal, things recruited to serve in the Games, travellers who find the Orrery to be a convenient short cut through the planes. It is also the only place where the mairin can be found in large numbers. Their race is mostly dead – their homeland was devoured whole by flights of dragons in ages past.
Medium Humanoid (Extraplanar)
Hit Dice: 1d8-1 (3 hp)
Initiative: +2 (Dex)
Speed: 30 ft.
Armor Class: 19 (+2 Dex, +5 breastplate, +2 heavy steel shield), touch 12, flat-footed 17
Base Attack Bonus/Grapple: +0/+0
Attack: Longsword +0 melee (1d8+poison) or heavy crossbow +2 ranged (1d10+poison)
Full Attack: Longsword +0 melee (1d8+poison) or heavy crossbow +2 ranged (1d10+poison)
Space/Reach: 5-ft. /5-ft.
Special Attacks: Poison
Special Qualities: Addiction, Shift Sense, Spelllike abilities
Saves: Fort +1, Ref +2, Will -1
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 15, Con 8, Int 17, Wis 8, Cha 14, Luk 10
Skills: Appraise +7, Bluff +6, Craft (alchemy) +7*, Diplomacy +6, Knowledge (the planes) +7*, Listen +3, Spot +3
Climate/Terrain: The Orrery
Challenge Rating: 1
Treasure: Double standard
Alignment: Usually chaotic neutral
Advancement: By class
Level adjustment: +1
The figure facing you is humanoid, but slightly thinner and paler than could be considered human. A strange tracery of bioluminescence glows on its face.
The mairin are a race of humanoids from a dead world who have taken up residence on the Orrery. They are degenerates, addicted to pleasure and convinced of their own innate superiority to all others. The main occupation of the vast majority of the mairin is to play and win the Games of the Neverbuilt City, although a small few become fascinated with the cities along the Spireward Sea and go off exploring the planes beyond the city. Most, however, are strangely parochial for a race dwelling in a nexus plane.
The mairin worship no gods and have no clerics save those of other races whom they have enslaved. Their ambition drives them to great heights of swordplay or magic. The mairin have naturally bioluminescent pools of light on their skin, and ritual scarring and tattoos are used to shape these glowing marks into family and caste marks.
Mairin dislike melee combat – they are too slight and vulnerable to survive direct clashes with many opponents. They are masters of poison and drug use, preferring to deliver their venoms using heavy crossbows or other ranged weapons.
Poison (Ex): The mairin brew their own poisons in the Neverbuilt City. They commonly use a nerve agent that deadens reflexes (Fortitude save DC 18, initial damage 1d6 Dex, secondary damage 1d6 Dex), but have a wide range of speciality venoms available, including ones that specifically interfere with spellcasting (Fortitude save DC 18, initial damage requires a Concentration check at DC 15 + the spell’s level to cast a spell, secondary damage increases the DC by +10; both effects last for thirty minutes). The mairin never accidentally poison themselves when using poison.
Addiction (Ex): All mairin are addicts to one form of drug or another. A mairin must spend at least 50 gp multiplied by their level on drugs each month, or suffer withdrawal (-4 to all ability scores for one month, -3 to all scores in the following month, -2 after that indefinitely, as complete recovery is impossible for the mairin). In the Neverbuilt City, such intoxicants are freely available.
Boost (Su): Once per day, a mairin can draw on its inner reserves and increase any one of its classes by two levels, gaining the benefits of the boosted class’ base attack, saving throws and special abilities. For example, a 5th level mairin monk could boost his monk level to seven, gaining the wholeness of body ability. This boost lasts for 1d4 rounds.
Shift Sense (Su): Mairin can automatically sense any planar travel effects active within 60 feet of them.
Skills: All mairin have a +4 racial bonus to Craft (alchemy) and Knowledge (the planes) checks.