A Quick Preface
To A Lesser Degree, Teleporters: An Introduction
Dissecting Gates, From the Outside In
To begin at the beginning, in D&D a gate is a magical portal that whisks the PCs that enter it to another location. In general, PCs won’t know the destination of a gate unless they have discovered some information about its creators and/or its current users because in-game there are few, if any, resources available to assist PCs with divining the nature of any magical portal. Generous DMs may provide magic-users with some intelligence about a gate via detect balance, -evil or -good, detect magic, augury, identify, know alignment, divination, or true seeing, and they can always turn to the ubiquitous last resorts of desperate information seekers---bardic lore, sagely consultation, commune contact other plane, legend lore. Perhaps even such spells as locate object, glassee, project image, and other scrying magics/devices, may allow PCs to “see beyond” to the other side of a gate
- If gates can lead to variable destinations (a la Farmer, Greenwood’s article, and “From Kuroth’s Quill” #1: One-Way Doors, Variable Stairs, and the Accessibility of Sub-Levels), is there some way other than trial-and-error for PCs to recognize such gates?
- If a gate can be trapped, can PCs detect it, and attempt to remove it, and if so, how?---will a thief’s Find and Remove Traps ability function on gates? what detail will a clerical Find Traps provide? would dispel magic to remove a magical trap on the gate interfere with its functionality?
- When knights return from Faerie or other realms of myths and folklore, they often age heavily during the transition---or their age remains constant but time has advanced quickly in their absence (often a century or more); if PCs knew of such risks when choosing to traverse a gate, they might avoid it completely; if instead, however, they have tools to try to minimize such negative effects, the possibility of success (and failure!) raises the tension and the stakes in the game---especially, if they are perhaps “forced” to choose to pursue a foe beyond the gate, or to rescue a friend who fell through, or whatever.
- intensity: a measure of the strength of a gate’s magical aura and planar connections; detection levels are: none/inactive, dim, faint, moderate, strong, very strong, intense, and overwhelming; gates rated at strong or stronger are more-easily detected; in general, an active gate will read with an intensity one or two levels higher than its inactive state
- recency: a measure of when an inactive gate was last used; detection levels are: fresh (used within 1 round/level; detects at +50%), recent (within 1 turn/level; detects at +25%), waning (within 1 hour/level, detects at base), dwindled (within 1 day; detects at -25%), stale (within 1 day/level; detects at -50%), lapsed (within 1 week/level; detects at -75%), atrophied (within 1 month/level; detects at -125%), eroded (within 1 year/level; detects at -200%)
- ethos: a measure of the alignment components of a gate’s destination(s) (if any); detects as: none, law, chaos, good, evil, neutrality (no detection modifiers)
- activation method(s): general details about how the gate is activated---by walking through, by command phrase, by proximity of some sort of key or item, by ritual, etc.; specific details beyond walking through the gate often require research via consultation with a sage or bard, legend lore or contact other plane, or similar efforts to glean the full information
- destination(s): the caster discovers how many destinations to which the gate leads; if the gate can access more than one plane, planes will be identified from most- to least-commonly travelled destinations
- periodicity: determines if the gate is always on, or periodic; a second check will determine the frequency of the gate’s operative periods---every other round, once per day, upon command, during the new moon, etc.; a third check will determine the duration for the gate’s activity cycle---always on during the full moon, one use during a full moon, for one hour after the third person to walk through during a full moon, etc.
- sweetness: a measure of the discomfort that passage through a gate causes, based on a 14 Constitution; adjust upward or downward from Con 14 using detect gate’s intensity scale to determine PC impact, if any: none (no effect; the gate is “sweet”), faint (mild dizziness), moderate (dislocation), strong (mild nausea), very strong (nausea), intense (strong pain), overwhelming (unconsciousness); each level of effect is cumulative, and exact effects are left to the DM to adjudicate
- symmetry: does the gate shift travellers’ physical positions during transit, or do they arrive in the same positions relative to one another, to the gate itself, etc.
- temporality: does the gate shift travelers forward or backward in time, or have a discernable lag during transit time
- transit options: is the gate one-way or two-way?
- traps: the caster identifies one trap on the gate, if any, along with the trap’s level of threat (use detect gate’s intensity scale)
- usage restrictions: identifies whether or not the gate restricts usage in some manner, such as by home plane, race, sex, alignment, class, level, eye color, family lineage, etc. ; the first check provides a yes/no response, while subsequent checks provide one restriction per check
Ed Greenwood’s “The Theory and Use of Gates” provides an excellent overview of gates-related fiction released through the late 1970s. Other than Greenwood’s piece and Sepulchrave’s works, I do not reference fiction otherwise in this bibliography. Instead, I focus narrowly on useful sources about planar architecture and gates, rather than on content describing the people, places, and things found within any specific plane: this is one reason why I don’t list most Planescape titles in the bibliography, for example (that I can’t stand Planescape’s cant is another…). The Dragon Archive details a cornucopia of such content specific to various planes, including the Nine Hells (issues #75, #76, #91), Gladsheim (#90), Hades (#113), and the Demiplane of Shadow (#213), in addition two planar adventures (in issues #67 and #90). In addition, a wide variety of Planescape and d20 products have provided support content detailing specific planes as well, such as Rob Kuntz's and Necromancer Games’ City of Brass products, most of Mongoose’s line of planar books, Monte Cook’s Beyond Countless Doorways.
- Peter Adkison, The Primal Order, Wizards of the Coast (1992)
- Bruce Cordell, A Guide to the Ethereal Plane, Wizards of the Coast (1998)
- Bruce Cordell and Gwendolyn F. M. Kestrel, Planar Handbook, Wizards of the Coast (2004)
- Jameson Ferris, “Tales of Wyre” (Story Hour) and “Eadric et. al. (The Paladin and his Friends)” (Rogues Gallery) in Sepulchrave’s “Wyre” threads on EN World (2002 to date)
- Ed Greenwood, “From the City of Brass… …to Dead Orc Pass… In One Small Step: The Theory and Use of Gates” in The Dragon #37 (May 1980)
- Gary Gygax, "The Inner Planes " in Dragon #73 (May 1983)
- "Planes" in The Dragon #8 (July 1977)
- "Playing On the Other Planes of Existence" in The Dragon #32 (December 1979)
- "Protection Circles and the Like..." in Dragon #56 (December 1981)
- Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell, and David Noonan , Manual of the Planes, Wizards of the Coast (2001)
- Gareth Hanrahan, Classic Play: Book of the Planes, Mongoose Publishing (2004)
- Dave Howell, Chessboards: The Planes of Possibility, Wizards of the Coast (1994)
- Steven Kienle with Gary Gygax, "Elementary Ideas for Elemental Adventuring" in Dragon #47 (March 1981)
- Lenard Lakofka, “The Inner Planes” in Dragon #42 (October 1980)
- Mike Mearls, Legends & Lairs: Portals & Planes, Fantasy Flights Games (2003)
- Phil Reed, “A Dozen Planar Traits,” Ronin Arts (2006)
- Roger E. Moore with Gary Gygax, “The Astral Plane” in Dragon #67 (November 1982)
- Roger E. Moore, “Gates in the World of Greyhawk” originally in the Greyhawk AOL folder, was later available on wizards.com, and is now archived on Greyhawk Online (March 1995)
- Carl Schnurr, Mythic Places and More Mythic Places for Ars Magica, White Wolf (1991)
- David C. Sutherland III with Gary Gygax, Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits, TSR (1980)
"The Theory and Use of Gates in Campaign Dungeons, Part 1: Setting the Stage" first appeared in Knockspell Magazine #3 (Spring 2009).