Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Reprint: Planescape, Revisited

This is a reprint of a post published on February 7, 2008 in honor of the fact that the D&D game Angela is running has moved to Sigil.


I wrote this up a long time ago as potential notes for a neo-planescape campaign. I've added a couple notes since then.

Maybe I will do something along these lines someday. Until then, maybe someone else will find this useful.

It is unlikely that this will make sense unless you are familiar with Planescape.

The Lady of Pain:
Largely unchanged, though perhaps a bit less hands-on. Mysterious. Silent. Terrifying. Ignore the backstory that was given to her in the gaming fiction.

Portals:
Some portals, particularly older and more stable ones, are more akin to hallways than doorways. They have demiplanar space inside them. A few of these have multiple doorways off of them, but such are rare. Others have stores or inns that have set up shop within them. The largest and most stable portals practically have small cities within them - these are commonly called Gate-towns.

Religion in Sigil:
As I envision it, Sigil has very few churches to deities. Deities who desire representatives in Sigil may have an embassy, and nearly all such embassies have chapels. Organized worship of deities outside of embassies is not, precisely, illegal... but it appears to be frowned upon by the Lady of Pain and, thus, rare. The Lady of Pain has not, however, taken a stance on cults that worship things other than deities (which is one of the reasons that some of the Factions are so strong in Sigil).

Sigil Government:
The Factions, such as they are, do not have a formal role in government. Each of Sigil's six wards has a Ward Council. The members of these councils are chosen in different manners in different wards. Each of the Ward Councils sends a single representative to the High Council. In addition, each time the high council meets, a different citizen of Sigil is brought to the meeting by one or more of the Dabus. The Council refers to this person as The Voice (presumably "The Voice of the Lady," but this presumption goes unspoken in case it is mistaken). The Voice will break any ties of the council and holds veto power over any of their decisions. It is unknown how The Voice is chosen. Gate-towns have no formal representation, a fact that has caused some unrest.

Alignment and the Outer Planes:
I don't like the reification of alignment, and some alignment concepts ("lawful" - I am looking at you) are a conglomeration of things that aren't particularly related to each other. Instead of Law-Chaos-Good-Evil, the Outer Planes are organized around Reason-Passion-Peace-Conflict. Alternately, I'd use the new 4e cosmology. Sigil would be on an island in the 'center' of the Astral Sea... or something.

The Outlands:
My conception of the Outlands was pretty close to the 4e Astral anyway: The Outlands take up the space between the Planes of Reason-Passion-Peace-Conflict and are physically bordered by them. One can, in theory, walk from The Abyss (Conflict/Passion) to Arcadia (Reason/Peace). The Outlands, however, are weird. Phantom Tollbooth Weird. The Outlands are made up of a series of semi-contiguous pocket-dimensions, many of which are ruled by gods and shaped by their whims... and many of which are infinitely large. Some things formerly designated as outer planes in and of themselves will now be infinitely large domains within the Outlands. The Outlands also have a strange connection to the Inner Planes.

Gate-towns:
Gate-towns are no longer in the Outlands. Instead, the Gate-towns are demi-planes that have exactly two portals in them - one in Sigil and one on an Outer Plane. The location of each of these portals (in Sigil and on the other Plane) is well-known and well-traveled. The Gate-towns and Sigil itself make up a sort of megalopolis, and some people consider the Gate-towns to be part of Sigil.

The Factions:
The Factions are no longer Capital-F-Factions. Instead, they are much less unified and much more subtly integrated. Many of them are cults or secret societies. Others will have stronger ties to some of the outer planes or Sigil itself. Details are below.

Athar - The Athar exist as a secret society across many Planes. Most of its members in high standing are former clerics who have renounced their faiths. Some are worshippers of gods who have died. They rarely become directly involved in politics, but they often sponsor secular alternatives to activities typically provided only through religion. They have trained midwives and healers, and have reached out to those seeking spiritual enlightenment or meaning in a wide variety of ways. The Athar are subtly evangelical.

Godsmen - The Godsmen Foundry is run by a group within the Athar known as the Believers of the Source. The Foundry is a business venture - it sells both forged products and self-actualization training (which involves forge-training and work in the Foundry). Many people consider the whole thing a scam. The Foundry is, however, a cooperative, and the Godsmen own it (though the Athar still have influence in it). The Godsmen themselves are those who have successfully gone through the self-actualization training and believe that they are on the path to becoming gods. The Godsmen have become economically significant in Sigil. Many Godsmen have largely left the Foundry and continued on a more personal path. They tend to become successful in their ventures.

Bleak Cabal - the Cabal is a social club and service organization for existentialists. They often meet with each other or with members of the Sign of One (or - occasionally - the Revolutionary League) for philosophical discussions and alcohol. They fund and staff services for the poor in Sigil.

Doomguard - The Doomguard is a militant entropy-worshiping cult that exists across many Planes. It also has among its members a few of those who worship gods of entropy, death, and decay - though many of these eventually abandon their gods for the Doomguard philosophy. Members of the Doomguard recognize that the multiverse is flawed. These flaws, they see, will result in the eventual - and inevitable - decay and destruction of the universe. Many of the Doomguard are dedicated to seeing that this process occurs smoothly. Some of them are dedicated to eliminating unnecessary suffering in this process. Others seek to speed the process. In general, the belief is that the universe itself will reincarnate into a less flawed form. This process of decay and rebirth may need to happen many times before the universe is flawless. Joining the Doomguard involves a demonstration of your acceptance of entropy - and often involves the willing physical destruction of something of great value to you.

Dustmen - The Dustmen are cross-planar cultists, a group of whom have infiltrated and taken over the morticians guild of Sigil. Their philosophy involves a denial of Passion and Conflict. Instead of Reason and Peace, however, they see the opposition to these things as a state of True Death. Furthermore, they deny the meaningfulness of the common distinction between life and death - death that does not occur while one is in a state of denial of Passion and Conflict cannot be True Death (and, instead, results in the individual becoming a Petitioner). A minority of the Dustmen believe that the True Death must be found not only in the denial of Passion and Conflict, but must also involve the denial of Reason and Peace. This minority has a tremendous respect for mindlessness, and practices the creation of skeletons and zombies. The Dustmen count some intelligent undead among their members.

Fated - The Fated are the self-proclaimed social elite of Sigil - many of them are ex-adventurers and former members of the Fraternity of Order or the Godsmen. Their interactions with each other center primarily around formal social events. They count among their number several members of the Lady's Ward Council and the Clerk's Ward Council, but their real power is as individuals. Each of the Fated is an individual of impressive ability or resources, without which they would not have been admitted to the group. They consider themselves to be the true powers in Sigil.

Fraternity of Order - The Fraternity of Order is somewhere between a secret society and a cult. Its members seek to develop a set of rules that unify all physical, arcane, social, and governmental laws. Furthermore, they believe that Sigil is the hub of the multiverse, and - as a result - is the key to their project. They have members on most of the Ward Councils. Its members are politicians, scientists, wizards, and businessmen. One of their major projects is to collect as much empirical information as possible about what goes on in Sigil. Another is to study Sigil's relationship to the rest of the multiverse (in particular, many are interested in the Gate-towns). Perhaps most central to the Order's purpose, however, is the strong political goals which fall out of their belief system. If they become the powers that be in Sigil, they believe that they will effectively be the powers that be in the multiverse.

Harmonium - The Harmonium is a group founded by Peace-aligned outsiders. It began as a sort of neighborhood watch within Sigil, and has become a vigilante group that is the de facto police force in Sigil. Moreover, its activities have spread outward from Sigil to the areas around more well-travelled portals, including Gate-towns.

Mercykillers - As the Harmonium expanded, it recruited more individuals who were not as strongly Peace-aligned as its founders. When such individuals were forced to deal more with the harsh realities of the underbelly of Sigil, many of them resorted to methods not sanctioned by the Harmonium. Eventually, this group, frustrated by what they perceived as the Harmonium's overly merciful ways, split off completely. There is a tension between the two, but they will occasionally work together (particularly if the Mercykillers agree to reign in their tactics). The Mercykillers primarily function in the Hive, the Lower Ward, and the Gate-towns of Conflict-aligned planes, but they have begun recruiting and acting outside of the environs of Sigil.

Revolutionary League - The Revolutionary League, like the Bleak Cabal and the Sign of One, is largely a social club for people of a particular philosophical bent - in this case, anarchists. The League has a political agenda - it believes that Sigil belongs to everyone and that the Ward Councils (and their Harmonium lap dogs) should be abolished. Recently, they have gotten wind of the Fraternity of Order's true purpose and have begun to mobilize to tear them down. They could easily turn against other factions.

Sign of One - The Sign of One is a group of solipsists that developed around a group of magical researchers dedicated to developing their own form of magic based upon a solipsistic belief system. While it was founded by a small group of individuals, the group has become increasingly popular among the self-important. These hangers-on tend to treat Sign of One as a sort of social/philosophical club. Recently, the researchers at the core of the group have made some breakthroughs, and the basic abilities of the magical system they have developed are becoming more widespread among the Signers.

Society of Sensation - The Society of Sensation is an elite social club for explorers... in a very broad sense of the term explorer. The Sensates are choosy about who they admit to their number. A prospective member must be sponsored and must have a truly unique experience to offer. The Sensates make extensive use of crystals that record experiences and memories.

Transcendent Order - Members of the Transcendent Order attend - or have spent time at - the Cifer Monastery, where they learn to act through instinct, ignoring both passion and reason. They practice distinctive meditative techniques and martial arts. The monastery in Sigil is not the first of the Transcendent Order's (which was on a Prime), but it has become the largest and, effectively, the headquarters of the Order.

Xaositects - 'Xaositect' is a name imposed from the outside. It refers to any one of a number of roving gangs made up of individuals who are mentally ill, have been driven mad, have had their minds altered by magic, or are of a creature type whose mind works in a way that most individuals in Sigil consider insane or chaotic. There have recently been rumors about an entity (possibly from a Passion-aligned plane?) who calls itself the Xaositect and who is said to be the leader of all of these gangs, but most consider the rumor to be unfounded...

There would be additional factions, as well. These include one that wants Gate-town (and, possibly, outer-plane) representation in Sigil government, and another that is working toward Gate-town independence from Sigil and the connecting planes.

I've gotten rid of the Free League - which I felt was necessary given the role of the factions here - though they might be recast as either (1) a group of individuals fighting against a perceived shadow government or (2) a mercantile league that supports a free market.

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