D&D The Great Wheel: Positioning Gehenna and Tarterus/Carceri

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
I've always had a tough time remembering the order the lower planes come in on the Great Wheel, and I think I just came to understand why: Gehenna and Tarterus/Carceri are flipped.

Can anyone defend the existing design concepts of Gehenna and Tarterus/Carceri in a comparative light and with an eye on their respective positions in the alignment rose?

Gehenna is a violent, elemental plane of floating active volcanoes. Tarterus/Carceri is a prison plane made up of a string of nested spheres. So why is Gehenna the plane of Neutral Evil Law and Tarterus/Carceri the plane of Neutral Evil Chaos?

I know that the NE(L) gods live on Gehenna and the NE(C) gods live on Carceri, but that is a foregone conclusion. I don't think arguments involving the gods and other denizens of these planes hold water, because for the most part they've been assigned according to alignment, not geography.

There's nothing about the geography of Gehenna that would preclude the Revolutionary League building their headquarters there, if it were the plane of NE(C), for instance, and there's nothing about Tarterus/Carceri that would not suit Loviatar if it were the plane of NE(L).
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Defend?

Nah, bro, you want to flip 'em, go ahead and flip 'em. The existing layout's just a yugoloth conspiracy anyway. ;)

Explain? Reason? Describe? Justify? Sure, that I can help with.

Carceri/Tarterus in my mind leans Chaotic because it is a plane of "imprisonment" where the inmates run the show. The creatures locked away here are locked away because they broke the rules, or at least disregarded them. The idea on everyone's mind is escape -- freedom, liberation. But they're metaphysically unable to attain the freedom they desire. They're too self-interested to work together to attain their freedom. They're chaotic -- they rebel, they are individualists, they fight the power -- but they're more evil than they are chaotic. They're more interested in getting ahead than in defying the order that has them imprisoned. Carceri exists because these people feel persecuted, like victims of law and order and other people. So in death, they are persecuted as well.

Gehenna in my mind leans Lawful in a way not entirely dissimilar. It is a place of insular in-groups, of xenophobia and suspicion of outsiders. Little petty warlords on their petty thrones. This is mimicked in the shape of the mountains: there is a social stratum, there are people at the top...of course, those people are at the top of a crappy little mountain, not really ruling over much of anything of worth. But that's the mindset, right? Any petty power over any petty aspect of life that gives you a little bit of an edge, makes you feel like a big tuff guy. Charity's for dupes and what I like is best. Of course, their vision is limited...they don't have imperial visions or want to rule the world. Too much hassle, too much investment in what other people want or think. Just give me my throne of propaganda on my molehill of manure, and I'll be happy. The people who wind up in Gehenna are far too self-interested to do the hard work necessary to truly build a lasting dominion of evil, but they're happy to bully and backstab and work together to make the lives of everyone not playing by their rules miserable.

That's how I see it as it is currently laid out. Not that this is sacrosanct at all, just that I think it's a fun way to see them.
 

the Jester

Legend
I suspect the out-of-game reason has to do with the classical Titans as presented in the 1e Deities and Demigods book (which is to say, Chaotic Evil), and the fact that, in myth, they are imprisoned in Tarterus.

EDIT: Added "out of game" above.
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
Defend?

Nah, bro, you want to flip 'em, go ahead and flip 'em. The existing layout's just a yugoloth conspiracy anyway. ;)

Explain? Reason? Describe? Justify? Sure, that I can help with.

Carceri/Tarterus in my mind leans Chaotic because it is a plane of "imprisonment" where the inmates run the show. The creatures locked away here are locked away because they broke the rules, or at least disregarded them. The idea on everyone's mind is escape -- freedom, liberation. But they're metaphysically unable to attain the freedom they desire. They're too self-interested to work together to attain their freedom. They're chaotic -- they rebel, they are individualists, they fight the power -- but they're more evil than they are chaotic. They're more interested in getting ahead than in defying the order that has them imprisoned. Carceri exists because these people feel persecuted, like victims of law and order and other people. So in death, they are persecuted as well.

Gehenna in my mind leans Lawful in a way not entirely dissimilar. It is a place of insular in-groups, of xenophobia and suspicion of outsiders. Little petty warlords on their petty thrones. This is mimicked in the shape of the mountains: there is a social stratum, there are people at the top...of course, those people are at the top of a crappy little mountain, not really ruling over much of anything of worth. But that's the mindset, right? Any petty power over any petty aspect of life that gives you a little bit of an edge, makes you feel like a big tuff guy. Charity's for dupes and what I like is best. Of course, their vision is limited...they don't have imperial visions or want to rule the world. Too much hassle, too much investment in what other people want or think. Just give me my throne of propaganda on my molehill of manure, and I'll be happy. The people who wind up in Gehenna are far too self-interested to do the hard work necessary to truly build a lasting dominion of evil, but they're happy to bully and backstab and work together to make the lives of everyone not playing by their rules miserable.

That's how I see it as it is currently laid out. Not that this is sacrosanct at all, just that I think it's a fun way to see them.
I suspect the out-of-game reason has to do with the classical Titans as presented in the 1e Deities and Demigods book (which is to say, Chaotic Evil), and the fact that, in myth, they are imprisoned in Tarterus.

EDIT: Added "out of game" above.
Good posts. That's some insightful stuff. I hadn't looked at the question in quite those ways.

One of the things I've always liked about the Great Wheel is that the afterlife it proposes doesn't impose a lot of judgment. The only thing that ending up on an outer plane after death really means for a character, for certain, is that they will be surrounded by the souls and spirits of people who think the way they do. Whether that is a punishment or a reward is really up to the individual.

To that end, Tarterus/Carceri has always confused me, because it seems to impose an external punishment (imprisonment) that isn't reflected in the design of any other lower plane. Would you agree, or do you think there is something intrinsic about the NE(C) mind (or a group of such minds) that creates and maintains a prison for itself, in the same way that the CE minds of the Abyss create a power-mad pecking order to climb?
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
To that end, Tarterus/Carceri has always confused me, because it seems to impose an external punishment (imprisonment) that isn't reflected in the design of any other lower plane. Would you agree, or do you think there is something intrinsic about the NE(C) mind (or a group of such minds) that creates and maintains a prison for itself, in the same way that the CE minds of the Abyss create a power-mad pecking order to climb?
I wouldn't go so far as to say that there's no external punishment reflected in any other plane. Pandemonium, for example, inflicts madness on all who dwell there due to its howling winds.

That said, I agree with KM's take on those two planes (though I recall Gehenna being characterized as a plane of "fury," which still fits well with his description - it's a plane of would be despots and bullies who are trying to beat out other would-be despots and bullies through simple aggression. It's a literal plane of "king of the mountain," where the crap quite literally flows downhill).
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
I wouldn't go so far as to say that there's no external punishment reflected in any other plane. Pandemonium, for example, inflicts madness on all who dwell there due to its howling winds.
I've always looked at it from the perspective that CN(E) petitioners are already mad, and it's catching. Travelers to the Abyss aren't an official part of its pecking order but that doesn't mean it can't kill or enslave them anyway.

I'm not sure that I necessarily agree that CN(E) = psychosis, but I see the intention, in any case. Certainly a lot of psychotics may end up behaving CN(E), regardless of their original alignment...

That said, I agree with KM's take on those two planes (though I recall Gehenna being characterized as a plane of "fury," which still fits well with his description - it's a plane of would be despots and bullies who are trying to beat out other would-be despots and bullies through simple aggression. It's a literal plane of "king of the mountain," where the crap quite literally flows downhill).
It's a very good synopsis. Honestly I'm a little disappointed with myself that I could not see it without help. Still struggling with Tarterus/Carceri, though.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
One of the things I've always liked about the Great Wheel is that the afterlife it proposes doesn't impose a lot of judgment. The only thing that ending up on an outer plane after death really means for a character, for certain, is that they will be surrounded by the souls and spirits of people who think the way they do. Whether that is a punishment or a reward is really up to the individual.

To that end, Tarterus/Carceri has always confused me, because it seems to impose an external punishment (imprisonment) that isn't reflected in the design of any other lower plane. Would you agree, or do you think there is something intrinsic about the NE(C) mind (or a group of such minds) that creates and maintains a prison for itself, in the same way that the CE minds of the Abyss create a power-mad pecking order to climb?
You know the kind of person who always believes that they're the victim? The lady who pins all of her life's problems on her parents, or the guy who blames "the gubmint" for his rage and poverty, or the person who cries "religious persecution!" at the drop of a hat?

If the planes in D&D are belief made real, wouldn't it make sense that the D&D versions of these souls would *actually* have something out to get them in the afterlife? That all their persecution complexes and martyr cries would be rendered kind of true? The soul wants to be victimized, claims to be victimized, believes that it is victimized. Why wouldn't they be truly victims in death?

It might look like an external force, but it's really what they want, how they believe the world works. These people are happy to be victims. Being imprisoned by the multiverse is validating for them -- reality itself is out to get them here. They're speaking truth to power and dismantling the corrupt system and OF COURSE the voices of the planes would array to silence them by putting them in a planar prison!

The Anarchist's Faction who have their HQ here give a perspective on this: the believe all order and power is inherently corrupting, so they think that everyone's a victim of Big Something (or Big Everything). Of course they'd find a comfortable home in Carceri, where the plane reinforces that notion. And of course, that home would make them a conspiratorial and suspicious lot.
 

Yora

Villager
I've always had a tough time remembering the order the lower planes come in on the Great Wheel, and I think I just came to understand why: Gehenna and Tarterus/Carceri are flipped.
That actually makes perfect sense. It's a prision plane and a much more violent version of the Grey Wastes after all. I think I'm going to use this from now on.
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
It might look like an external force, but it's really what they want, how they believe the world works. These people are happy to be victims. Being imprisoned by the multiverse is validating for them -- reality itself is out to get them here. They're speaking truth to power and dismantling the corrupt system and OF COURSE the voices of the planes would array to silence them by putting them in a planar prison!
Yeah, all right. I'm coming around. Carceri petitioners are the criminals who are chaotic enough to rankle at their imprisonment but still too selfish to run any risks to their own comfort. They're the ones who incite other prisoners to riot. If the riot succeeds, great, and if it doesn't, they are in a better position for not having wasted their own resources.

Contrast with the Abyss, where petitioners are willing to risk even death to claw their way up and assume control themselves, and with the Grey Wastes of Hades where petitioners are entirely too absorbed in their own plots to care that they are trapped by those same plots.

I would agree that these people you're describing would be NE(C), but the question remains: do all NE(C) characters necessarily have persecution complexes? There is a logic to the equivalency of CN(E) and psychosis, even if I don't necessarily agree with it, but I'm not sure I see the same logic joining NE(C) and institutional paranoia.
 

Savage Wombat

Adventurer
But you see, petitioners don't want to live on these planes.

The plane is a mirror of everything they believe the universe to be all along.

If you think the universe is a fair and just place, where hard work and helping others benefits you as well as them - guess what, you get to climb Mt. Celestia. If you think the universe is a battle of all-against-all and only the strongest, most ruthless berk survives - good luck in the Abyss. (Boy, the bottom of the heap is a lot lower than it was as a human, huh?)

Is the universe an uncaring system of physical law, and morality is an illusion? Mechanus for you. Is the universe random and pointless? Off to Limbo.

Come to think of it, I wouldn't want to be someone like Nietzsche under this system.
 
As much as I love PS in broad strokes, it's inspired and weighed down by quite a bit of legacy concepts that don't all make much sense together. Additionally, I know from personal experience how creatively exhausting it is to write nine distinct yet thematic outer planes -- I can only imagine that, even with an entire design team, writing seventeen outer planes was a herculean task, and that quite a bit of creative corner-cutting and hand waving resulted.

So by all means, rearrange the details as you wish, I say!
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
I would agree that these people you're describing would be NE(C), but the question remains: do all NE(C) characters necessarily have persecution complexes? There is a logic to the equivalency of CN(E) and psychosis, even if I don't necessarily agree with it, but I'm not sure I see the same logic joining NE(C) and institutional paranoia.
I'd say all NE(C) people rankle at being controlled, but aren't really committed to independence. They don't like having to bow to someone else's authority. And when your main concern is in convincing others to loosen the bonds of authority on you, playing the victim is a useful gambit -- and can even be sincerely internalized.

"Everyone else is trying to stop me from being the awesome, exceptional person I know I am. They're all jealous. They're all peons. I'm a special important person who doesn't need to conform to their 'rules' -- rules that are only there for useless altruism and empty ego-padding! I'm being repressed because I can't just do whatever I want!"
 

Shemeska

Adventurer
Had I been able to post a reply earlier before other folks jumped in, I'd have dropped a page or two on how I view both planes with respect to their alignments, but since I'm late to the party I'll provide someone else's words on the subject:

I've always been a fan of much of Pathguy/LiPo's take on the philosophy of why the various outer planes are the way they are:

Gehenna http://www.pathguy.com/gehenna.htm

Carceri http://www.pathguy.com/carceri.htm
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
Had I been able to post a reply earlier before other folks jumped in, I'd have dropped a page or two on how I view both planes with respect to their alignments, but since I'm late to the party I'll provide someone else's words on the subject:
Nonsense, Sheska, it's not a Planescape thread without you weighing in. :)
 

gyor

Adventurer
Who says that Carcari functioning as a prison plane is natural? Perhaps it was like other lower planes once, filled with evil neutral choatic petitioners, until the Gods decided to dump the evil titans there, and turned it into a prison.

Also note the domains of the Gods of the plane are likely not as unpleasant as the rest of the plane, islands of dark paradise in a prison of torment.
 

(un)reason

Explorer
Who says that Carcari functioning as a prison plane is natural? Perhaps it was like other lower planes once, filled with evil neutral choatic petitioners, until the Gods decided to dump the evil titans there, and turned it into a prison.
Yeah, this is actually the canon answer. If you look at the behaviour of the petitioners, the original theme of the plane is Betrayal. They got there because they betrayed someone or something, forming a relationship with them, then :):):):)ing them over. (This also includes betraying yourself, like people who lie, cheat, steal, and generally screw people over because they themselves are slaves to some kind of addiction.) The forming of superficial relationships is what distinguishes them from the abyssal inhabitants, who are more likely to just try and kill, eat, or exploit you straight away, without forming any bond to be betrayed in the first place.

The plane was then repurposed as one of imprisonment as well by the greek gods because the constant betrayal makes it near impossible to get people to work together and accomplish any long-term goal there, which definitely makes escape much harder.
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
Gyor necro'd this thread after four years, so I feel justified in re-necroing it after only six months. :) It is apparently still serving its purpose.

Yeah, this is actually the canon answer.
...
The plane was then repurposed as one of imprisonment as well by the greek gods because the constant betrayal makes it near impossible to get people to work together and accomplish any long-term goal there, which definitely makes escape much harder.
I feel like, by Planescape's own rules, if the Greek gods did this and were successful, Carceri and Gehenna would flip, or at least Carceri would move to the opposite side of the Grey Wastes. We see this phenomenon initated by mortals -- in Mechanus' Arcadian domains, transplanted accidentally by the Harmonium, and in the succession of Plague-Morts (Plagues-Mort?) on the first level of the Abyss. Surely a concerted effort like this on the part of the Olympians could shift a whole plane in the wheel?

This is the sort of neat stuff that I'm nervous about Planescape 5 possibly handwaving away as irrelevant. Get rid of magic weapon plus-loss across planar boundaries, sure. Same with clerics losing levels. You could even make a compelling argument for spell keys requiring too much bookkeeping for the amount of fun they bring to the table. But a Planescape that isn't rooted in 'belief as geography' just doesn't feel like Planescape.
 

(un)reason

Explorer
I feel like, by Planescape's own rules, if the Greek gods did this and were successful, Carceri and Gehenna would flip, or at least Carceri would move to the opposite side of the Grey Wastes. We see this phenomenon initated by mortals -- in Mechanus' Arcadian domains, transplanted accidentally by the Harmonium, and in the succession of Plague-Morts (Plagues-Mort?) on the first level of the Abyss. Surely a concerted effort like this on the part of the Olympians could shift a whole plane in the wheel?

This is the sort of neat stuff that I'm nervous about Planescape 5 possibly handwaving away as irrelevant. Get rid of magic weapon plus-loss across planar boundaries, sure. Same with clerics losing levels. You could even make a compelling argument for spell keys requiring too much bookkeeping for the amount of fun they bring to the table. But a Planescape that isn't rooted in 'belief as geography' just doesn't feel like Planescape.
It all depends on ratios of prisoners to jailers.

As long as the vast majority of the people there are unrepentant scumbags, it'll stay where it is. If the number of political prisoners who aren't actually bad people sent there increases, or the mercykillers get too hands-on and tip the overall balance towards lawful with too many guards per prisoner, there's a danger of it shifting.

But at the moment, they're mostly just thrown in to rot with the petitioners and other natives, with none of the opportunities for reform or parole a properly designed justice system would offer. The olympian pantheon is pretty chaotic itself, and not known for consistent or proportional enforcement of rules, as even a brief perusal of their myths will show.
 

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