Have your AD&D@ players been everywhere and slain everything? Are they getting bored with the same old world? Need to shake them up? Then drop them into the Vortex!
Step through the portal into:
- The Vortex of Madness: In the depths of Limbo, a lost legend warps reality. Discover the fate of one of history's great madmen in this mind-bending locale.
- The Citadel of Gith Reborn: A lone githyanki fortress in the vast gray of the Astral Plane holdas a grave threat to the rule of the lich-queen. Has the legendary Gith returned?
- Leonis: On an obscure demiplane, a crazed wizard defies both magic and science with his creations. Are his secrets worth dying for?
- The Black Acropolis: Zeus imprisoned the Titans in the pit of Tarterus countless millennia ago - but even the Great Cage can?t hold them forever.
- The City of Glass: The ?Sigil of the Elements? is the destination on the Plane of Water.Here are possibilities as endless as the Bottomless Deep itself.
The Vortex of Madness presents five intriguing places on the Inner and Outer Planes. Designed for high-level campaigns, each site is a gateway to adventure. Whether for a single visit or a continuing tour, The vortex of Madness has all you need to take your game beyond the Prime. The book also includes an optional storyline linking all five planar locales.
These adventure sites can be used with the PLANESCAPE setting or any other ADVANCED D&D Game
"The Vortex of Madness and other Planar Perils" (2000), by Chris Pramas, is the final planar adventure for AD&D 2e. It was published in January 2000.
Origins (I): The Generic Planes. By 2000, the Planescape setting was pretty much dead. "Warriors of Heaven" (1999) and "Guide to Hell" (1999) had each continued many of the ideas of Planescape, but without the branding. "The Vortex of Madness" was the next step. It purposefully disclaims Planescape, saying that the locales "fit into a Planescape campaign", but they're actually "intended for the DM looking for a chance of pace".
This distance from the Planescape setting was probably in large part due to the line's cancellation, but there was another reason …
Origins (II): The Fourth Sites. "Vortex of Madness" was contracted as a book called "Planar Sites". This would have made it the fourth of the generic sites books, following "City Sites" (1994), "Castle Sites" (1995), and "Country Sites" (1995). The idea was to mix planar material into the core D&D line, for groups who didn't like the very distinctive look of the Planescape books. As low man on the RPG R&D totem pole, Pramas was given this project. He produced a book of disparate and unconnected sites that definitely was not an adventure.
Shortly afterward, Pramas moved to the new miniatures group, where he felt like he could have more impact. Unfortunately, launching "a traditional miniatures game in a company that only really [understood] collectability was a thoroughly frustrating experience". Though the group successfully produced Chainmail (2001-2002), it was short-lived.
Origins (III): The Manuscript Reborn. After receiving the manuscript, Wizards decided that the book would sell better as an adventure — even though adventures were the worst-selling sort of supplement. An offsite developer took over the manuscript and linked the sites into a sort-of adventure. He also added in features like a village of cheese people who lived on a cheese lake that contained the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o; editor and developer Jennifer Clarke Wilkes decided to omit that last element as too cheesy.
And so "Vortex of Madness" (2000) was born out of "Planar Sites".
Origins (IV): The Planescape Ending. Properly, the Planescape line ended with The Inner Planes (1998), but "Vortex of Madness" was another ending, for it was the last standalone book about the Great Wheel.
The crossover adventure "Die Vecna Die!" (2000) would offer one last look at Planescape. After that books like the 3e Manual of the Planes would return to the Great Wheel without reference to Sigil or the other major tropes of the Planescape line. Strangely, the only major return to Sigil occurs in the 4e Dungeon Master's Guide 2 (2009), produced during a time when Wizards had replaced the Great Wheel with the World Axis.
Origins (V): A History of the Machine of Lum the Mad (and the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o). The over-arcing plot of "Vortex of Madness" involves the Machine of Lum the Mad. This early D&D artifact first appeared in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (1976). There's no record on who created it, though Rob Kuntz has verified that there was no Lum the Mad in the original Greyhawk campaign. It reappeared in Dungeon Masters Guide (1979), where it had become a "strange device … built by gods long forgotten". It then returned in the Book of Artifacts (1993) and was briefly featured in the unpublished "Ivid the Undying" (1995). "Vortex of Madness" is the only supplement to ever feature it in a major role.
However, the Machine did also appear in the computer game expansion Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (2001). This was a reference to computer game developer Scott Jennings, who ran a website called "Lum the Mad" (1998-2001).
The Book of Artifacts affirms that Lum found his Machine rather than creating it. Nonetheless, he's been claimed as the creator of many other artifacts over the years. The Inner Planes (1998) suggests that he invented a craft called The Avenger, while "Winter of the Witch" in Dungeon #162 (January 2009) attributes to him the creation of the Engine of Lum. "Spells between the Covers" in Dragon #82 (February 1984) suggests he was an author too, writing "The Minds of the Unknown", which contains feeblemind, mind blank, dismind, and forget. "Artifacts of Oerth" in Dragon #294 (April 2002) links him to one more artifact, though it just says that he used the sword Druniazth; but maybe he claimed to create that too!
The Mighty Servant of Leuk-o has a similar history. When it first appeared in Eldritch Wizardry, it was said to be a "relic of a visiting race of space travelers", highlighting the science fantasy origins of the D&D game. By the time it reappeared in the Dungeon Masters Guide It was said to be of "the same manufacture as the Machine of Lum", and they've been linked ever since.
Adventure Tropes. The core adventure "Vortex of Madness" sends the characters off to the four sites in the book. If you look carefully, you can see the nuts and bolts attaching this over-arcing scenario to Pramas' original work.
Exploring the Great Wheel. The Vortex is found in Limbo, but it's the other four chapters that form the most notable locales in "The Vortex of Madness". The Astral Plane is home to a githyanki fortress, while the Elemental Plane of Water reveals the City of Glass — a rare detailed location on that elemental plane and a fun analogue to the better-known City of Brass! "The Black Acropolis" is all about Tarterus (Carceri in Planescape speak), but Pramas pushes hard on its Greek origins by revealing the Titans' place in the plane. Finally, Pramas offers up one totally new locale: the Demiplane of Invention, either invented or discovered by a wish.
Artifacts of Note. Obviously, "Vortex of Madness" focuses on the Machine of Lum the Mad, with some references to the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o. But not in a lake of cheese.
Monsters of Note. The githyanki get the most singular attention on "Vortex of Madness", thanks to their Astral fortress.
NPCs of Note. Baron Lum makes an appearance; it turns out that he's imprisoned in his machine!
Whoops! Perhaps due to its scattered origins, "Vortex of Madness" says that it's for "high-level heroes" but doesn't provide better specifics. One reviewer suggests that 9th-14th level might be appropriate.
About the Creators. Pramas joined Wizards in 1998; a year and a half later, the Planescape-y A Guide to Hell (1999) was his first printed work. He'd soon move on to the miniatures group, then form his own company, Green Ronin.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.