Aw, Vigil! The legally distinct City of Windows! Can there be any doubt that Handbook-World boasts the finest doughnut-like hub city in all of cosmology?


Anywho, the demonstrable impossibility of such a place makes a fine jumping off point for today’s discussion. You see, our ongoing exploration of the Outer Planes affords us an opportunity to embrace the ludicrous. Thanks to the bizarre concepts, alternate physics, and magic-makes-its-own-rules nature of such settings, the Planes are exactly the sort of place where we can indulge our suspension of disbelief. This is the kind of setting where internal consistency goes to die, and whimsy rules the world(s). And I don’t think that’s necessarily bad.

Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, Gulliver’s fanciful foreign lands, and Dante’s infernal excursions all provide us with balls-out crazy-pants fantasy. These worlds are subject to the forces of allegory, sublime emotion, or unbridled invention. Same deal with Gaiman’s Dreaming, Pullman’s Land of the Dead, or the kaleidoscopic acid trip of everyone’s favorite chocolate factory. These are fantasies that give a giant middle finger to sense-making. And my own affection for them has a little something to do with one of my favorite Gygax quotes.

After expanding upon his own Greyhawk seting in 1983, D&D co-creator Gary Gygax wrote that, “The revised material did not reveal all there was to know about the place…The world was still a place where mystery abounded. All of the places on the map are not detailed, every strange name is not explained as to its origination, all governments are not exposed so as to be mundane.” In other words, Gygax intentionally left blank spaces at the edge of the map. There are unnamed mountain ranges, uncharted rivers, and unexplored caves waiting for discovery. There were no convenient, prepackaged explanations for what lay beyond those borders. There were no deeper truths you could unmask by further reading. You had to go there for yourself, and you had to derive whatever meaning you could from your own imagination. (How like life!) And for me, that’s worth all the origin stories and in-depth explanations in the world.

Question of the day then! What is your favorite example of “nonsense fantasy?” I’m talking about settings that defy logical explanation and easy understanding. Do you find them infuriating and childish? Or do you perhaps share my love of the absurd? Have you found a way to insert such places into a campaign? Sound off with all your best-loved whimsy down in the comments!


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