Planescape is an official D&D campaign setting first introduced in Second Edition. The setting centers around exploring an original multiverse cosmology. One of the more famous aspects of the setting is the distinctive artwork of Tony DiTerlizzi (you can see some of his art in the gallery section of the article). It was responsible for introducing the tiefling, githzerai, bariaur and eventually the aasimar and genasi races to the greater D&D collective.
- 1 Planescape cosmology
- 1.1 Sigil
- 1.2 Inner Planes
- 1.3 Outer Planes
- 1.3.1 The Abyss
- 1.3.2 Acheron
- 1.3.3 Arborea
- 1.3.4 Arcadia
- 1.3.5 Baator
- 1.3.6 The Beastlands
- 1.3.7 Bytopia
- 1.3.8 Carceri
- 1.3.9 Elysium
- 1.3.10 Gehenna
- 1.3.11 The Gray Wastes of Hades
- 1.3.12 The Ever-changing Chaos of Limbo
- 1.3.13 Mechanus
- 1.3.14 Mount Celestia
- 1.3.15 The Outlands
- 1.3.16 Pandemonium
- 1.3.17 Ysgard
- 2 Factions
- 3 Published Planescape books
- 4 Semi-Planescape books
- 5 Adaptation
- 6 Links
- 7 Critique
- 8 Gallery
The cosmological setup of the planes used in Planescape is derived from the lore of the multiverse built up over years of work, first by Gary Gygax, then by Jeff Grubb and others. The resultant array takes on a form of rings and layers stacking outwards from a central point - the Prime Material, the Ethereal, the Elemental, the Astral, and the Outer Planes. Between this, and the fact that the "array of rings" theme is carried over whenever one looks at either the Inner Planes or the Outer Planes, this cosmology is commonly nicknamed "The Great Wheel".
According to the rules of the Multiverse, Sigil is the center of it.
Sigil itself is a planar megalopolis built on the inside of a torus (imagine a tire lying on its side with buildings all around the inside surface). From anywhere on the Outlands (the most neutral of the Outer Planes), Sigil can be seen floating above the great stone Spire, but since the Spire is infinitely high, the only way in or out is through the portals that manifest themselves inside of doorways, windows, and any other kind of bounded space. Because of this, Sigil is also called 'The Cage'.
Portals like those in Sigil exist all over the multiverse, linking distant planes to each other, but the concentration is highest in the Cage. This phenomenon makes Sigil one of the most coveted locations in the multiverse. Gods and fiends would love to take over, but Sigil is guarded by a being called the Lady of Pain, whose diligence bars would-be conquerors from entering the city. Those within the city that displease the Lady find themselves either flayed alive by her shadow or cast into Mazes from which few ever escape.
Prior to the events of the Faction War, Sigil's political and philosophical system was dominated by fifteen factions, all vying for the most believers (see Factions, below). After the Faction War, many surviving factions left Sigil when the Lady of Pain told every leader to disband or die, whilst those that remained gave up on their political power. This was, in many ways, a repeat of an event from several thousand years prior to the "present" of the setting, when the "Great Upheaval" saw the Factions winnowed down to fifteen from over fifty groups. TSR did have plans for future supplements detailing new sects or factions returning after Sigil had gotten settled down again, but these plans were lost when TSR went under. As a result, Sigil was rewritten in a post-Faction War format in the Manual of the Planes for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, and this lore was subsequently copy-pasted into Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition.
These are the "material" planes, where reality is more objective than subjective. Each of the inner planes are theoretically infinite in size, and considered adjacent to each other at every point, with the exception of areas that are warded specifically to be isolated from other dimensions.
The Inner Planes have their own gods and realms (see Powers under Outer Planes, below), but no god has undisputed ownership of any of the inner planes. They seek to influence inner planes by invasion or conquest, or by subverting the natives, but none of the Powers can assert their dominion by fiat of their divine will such as with the Outer Planes... which makes the inner planes just as weird and mysterious to Outsiders as we find the Outer Planes.
This is the plane where nearly all of the Dungeons & Dragons story takes place, considered "home" to typical player characters. Most other campaign settings (with Ravenloft as an exception) are located here, isolated from each other by space and the crystal spheres (see Spelljammer).
This plane is the closest to the Prime Material plane(s), so much so that sometimes even the most mundane observers can sense Ethereal inhabitants (often called "ghosts," not to be confused with the undead "spectres" or "phantoms"). It's used as a storage space by the most elementary of enchantments, and some magical tricks make use of the proximity of the ethereal plane to "sidestep" material objects to pass through them, or to cover large distances in short time. Travellers on the ethereal plane can perceive the Prime Material as a foggy, faded and translucent landscape.
Plane of Shadow
This plane is similar to the Ethereal Plane in terms of proximity to the Prime Material plane, and the properties caused by said proximity, but the similarities end there. The Plane of Shadow is pretty much a dark and distorted mirror of the Prime Material plane. It is devoid of color and natural light, torches and the like are dimmer, and even portals to other planes seem obnoxiously colorful from this dark place. Basically the plane of shadow is just a gloomier spookier version of your neighborhood. While it's useful for travel in the same manner as the Etherial Plane such methods are risky as the Plane of Shadow is populated by dangerous creatures and shadow-thingies. Plus the landmarks are not always consistent. However, the Plane of Shadow can potentially be used to travel to other material planes. The reason why this is possible is because if the Planescape cosmology was a Great Wheel, then the Plane of Shadow would be its axle, as well as the axle of other cosmologies. However, prior to 3rd edition, the Plane of Shadow was merely a demiplane within the Deep Ethereal. It served as a collision of positive and negative energies, creating a strange dimension of twilight.
The Elemental Planes are dedicated to one particular idea of objective reality, without any philosophy. The landscape, the inhabitants, and any native objects found there are composed of solely one substance. This substance may be in many states, animate or inanimate, rigid or fluid, but anything found here that is not made of this substance was brought by an extraplanar visitor, and will probably be destroyed or eroded if left alone.
It goes without saying, but these are the most absolutely hostile planes in the entire multiverse to visit. Even if they aren't immediately and obviously fatal (try going to Fire or Magma without the ability to withstand immense heat, for example), there's usually some nasty little side effect to hanging around a place that keeps even most non-elemental outsiders away (for example, every day that you spend on Mineral, there's a chance you'll spontaneously turn to lifeless stone). This has made the Elemental Planes traditionally one of the less interesting parts of the Great Wheel, as a result of how much crap you need to put up with to get here and the often lackluster amount of things to do when you do make it there without dying.
The Primary Elemental Planes
The material that composes these planes are the most familiar elements, from classical alchemy: Air, Earth, Fire and Water. Theoretically infinite in size, it is still possible to travel between them by mundane travel; how to reach the "borders" of such infinite planes is a mystery. Each plane is dedicated to their material, and the sentients that inhabit these planes are called "elementals" en masse, although the term is usually used for those entities that have extremely simple forms and are summoned to the Prime Material as labour. You will also find life that approximates Prime Material plants and animals, although Elemental Plane natives will be quick to point out that Prime Material animals are mixed copies of their purer flora and fauna. You will also find on each of these planes a race of vaguely Aramaic sorcerous giants, usually at war with those of other elemental planes (the two most familiar species are 'djinni' from the plane of Air and 'efreeti' from the plane of Fire).
Survival on any of these planes is difficult, as life from the Prime planes and many Outer Planes need a mix of elements to survive. The plane of Air is the only source of something to breathe, although some may find the bottomless falling disorienting, and the plane of Earth is the only source of something to stand on if you count being buried alive as "standing." The plane of Water is comfortable if you have gills and blubber, and the plane of Fire is delightfully warm for the split second before you are reduced to a cinder.
It goes without saying that the elemental planes are essentially comprised of nothing more than an infinite mass of their own elemental energy/matter spanning in all three dimensions. You can dig or swim "upward" as high as you like on the Planes of Earth and Water and you'll never reach a surface. Only the Plane of Fire has something approaching Prime Material style topography, and that's more of a matter of consensus; the Plane's flames diffuse or compress as one ascends or descends; the "sky" is made of combustible, oft-toxic fumes, fireballs and waves of heat, the "ground" is comprised of burning coal-esque flames with the consistency of water, and the "underground" is flames with the consistency of molten metal. There are pockets of elemental matter from other planes, but, for the most part, it's basically an infinite expanse of one dimension.
Each of these four elemental planes also has two Elemental Lords, one of elemental evil and one of elemental good, who have dominion over all the simple-form inhabitants of the plane and has staggering power and control over the material the plane is composed of. These are the closest that the Inner Planes have to "Powers," although no Elemental Lord receives supplicants from other planes (all of their followers are already in their plane, and unswervingly faithful), and their influence is limited to their plane and any vortexes (portals that are locked open) that may touch the Prime Material. Elemental Lords are also collectively known as Archomentals, a reference to their status as "arch elementals".
The Paraelemental planes
If you wish to pass directly from one elemental planes to another, you must pass through the intersections between said planes. These intersections are semi-planes of material that is a mixture of the neighboring elements. The paraelemental planes are:
- Smoke, between Air and Fire
- Ice, between Air and Water
- Magma, between Earth and Fire
- Ooze, between Earth and Water
There are no paraelemental planes between Air and Earth, nor Fire and Water -- unlike many Inner Planes, Air is not adjacent to Earth, nor is Fire adjacent to Water, you would need to pass through the Prime or three other Elemental planes to go from one to the other. This also holds true for each of the Paraelemental planes. The paraelemental planes have their own simple life-forms, and unique to them are four races of imps known as "mephits" that hopelessly aspire to be Lords of these bargain-basement elemental planes. That is not to say however, that they lack princes of elemental good or evil, they do, but they're not that well known, except for Cryonax, who is the Prince of Evil Ice Creatures.
A side-effect of their nature as border-realms between two planes is that all Paraelemental Planes are divided into seven distinct segments, based on their proximity to one of their neighboring planes. For example, the Paraelemental Plane of Ice is divided into Core Ice (the center of the Plane), the Precipice (the surface of ice, lashed by eternal blizzards, bordering Air), the Frigid Void (empty, freezing space, bordering Vacuum), and the Stinging Storm (lashing, salt-laced hailstorms, bordering Salt) on the "top" of the plane, and the Sea of Frozen Lives (freezing cold ocean buried under the Core Ice, bordering Water), the Shimmering Drifts (mind-wiping dazzling drifts of ice crystals, bordering Lightning), and the Fog of Unyielding Frost (churning, super-chilled mists, bordering Steam) on the "bottom" of the plane.
These border regions are usually even nastier than the core region. For example, the Glowing Dunes, the border realms between Magma and Radiance, are essentially a technically infinite desert of pulverized radioactive ore, glowing with atomic energy. And it's explicitly spelled out that there's no known cure, even magical, for the radiation poisoning that afflicts anyone stupid enough to come here.
With shit like this, you can kind of see why the Inner Planes are so disregarded both inside the setting and out.
The Positive and Negative Energy Planes
These are the most Outer-like of the Inner Planes, as each is dedicated not to a coarse substance but something akin to an aspect of reality itself. However, Outsiders may find these planes more understandable but much more hostile than any of the other Inner Planes, as you will see below.
The Positive Material Plane is a boundless, bottomless, and overwhelming source of energy. Vital energy, motive energy, power, initiative, gumption, puissance... if wizards tap into the plane of Fire to create pyrotechnics, priests tap into this plane for their healing miracles. Just stepping in is enough to supercharge your body to heal itself immediately, and you will feel yourself becoming more powerful, more solid, which is good because the place is so brilliant you would be struck permanently blind if your eyes weren't regenerating from the local effects. Stay too long, and your body will become more powerful than your mere mortal (or even immortal!) frame can contain, and you will detonate. Any witnesses to your demise will attest it was beautiful, shortly before they explode too.
The Negative Material Plane is a boundless, bottomless, and overwhelming drain on energy. Death, entropy, void, draining cold, disintegration... every undead creature is linked to this plane, motivated to either steal life to feed the endless gnawing emptiness inside themselves, or to destroy life as it is abhorrent to the Negative Material that animates them. There is no light here, no heat, and any substance left here will disintegrate -- not erode like a Doomspeaker's ideal entropy, but waste away into nothingness. This includes anything material, magical or spiritual -- visiting here puts your very soul at risk!
The only life witnessed as native to these planes are the Xag-Ya and Xeg-Yi, which appear as balls of supernaturally hot or cold plasma. They seem to be sentient, since they react to language, but do not communicate themselves. If they meet each other, they will immediately rush to meet and mutually annihilate.
Strangely, in a rare display of non-symmetry, only the Negative Energy Plane has anything approaching a patron Power, in the form of the Hindu deity Siva. Fortunately, he's not an evil berk, and mostly just sits there contemplating how to fulfill his pantheon's destined role for him as the annihilator who cleanses the universe and leaves behind a blank slate for it to be remade.
Yeah, this does get kind of messy when you take into account that there's a huge array of other pantheons around, from fantastical ones from worlds like Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms to non-human racial pantheons to other real-world pantheons like the Greco-Roman Dodekatheon and the Chinese Celestial Bureaucracy. That's one of those "love it or hate it" aspects of Planescape.
Obviously, the Energy Planes are comprised of nothing but pure energy. There's not even any real solid material here, because the effects of the Planes on mere matter is totally destructive. This makes them super-hard to navigate in, although fortunately gravity's subjective, so you can just will yourself along as you see fit.
The Quasielemental Planes
Just as it's possible to travel between the primary Elemental Planes, it's also possible to travel by mundane means to the Positive or Negative material planes (why you would WANT TO is a mystery). At the intersection of the primary elemental planes and the Pos/Neg Material planes are the Quasielemental Planes
The quasi-elemental planes have little to no native flora nor fauna, and anyone claiming to be a lord would be a colonist from another plane. It's possible that any native life that grows large or ambitious enough will gravitate towards the Pos/Neg Material planes, where they would disintegrate from getting too close. Only the negative quasielemental planes have known princes, who are all evil.
As with the Paraelemental Planes, the Quasielemental Planes are made more distinctive by housing different terrain bands that signify proximity to one of the six other Inner Planes you can reach from that particular Quasielemental Plane. However, even if the Quasielemental Plane is linked directly to a Paraelemental Plane, the border region will be different depending on which side you're coming from. For example, the border region between Ice and Lightning on Ice's side is the Shimmering Drifts, a gentle snowstorm of hypnotically beautiful snowflakes and ice crystals that can suck the thoughts out of your head - but, coming at it from Lightning's Side, you run across the Glistening Crystal region, a realm of freezing-cold thunderstorms with luminescent icebergs floating within.
There are seventeen Outer Planes, each formed from the moral and ethical alignments of the sentient beings in the multiverse. Most of the Outer Planes are divided into layers; the majority of portals deposit beings on the first layer of the plane. Many of the gods (or Powers) in the multiverse reside on the Outer Planes, in lands called realms that are under their direct control. The souls of those who worship these powers reform in their powers' realm upon death. If a being follows no power, their soul is instead drawn to the plane that most matches their alignment. Mortals also dwell on the Outer Planes; their alignment generally matches the plane they are on, for fairly obvious reasons (from "this place is unpleasant to anyone who doesn't share the same mentality" to "the planes tend to brainwash people into thinking their way"). Enough like-minded beings of another alignment can cause a portion of the plane to break off and appear on the plane that matches their alignment. The Outer Planes are:
Stupidly Chaotic Evil. The Abyss has an infinite number of layers, each one unique and filled with hateful, unthinking evil. (Some say there're exactly six-hundred-sixty-six, but that's both applying the orderly logic of math to the fundamentally chaotic and unprovable, and completely theoretical anyway since nothing's ever gotten past three-hundred or so.) The tanar'ri (or demons, as they are known on the Prime Material Plane) dwell here.
Lawful Neutral (Evil). The first thing that anyone hears upon entering and the last upon leaving Acheron is the sound of constant conflict off in the distance. The first layer of Acheron is the most traveled; an infinite realm of gigantic nation-sized to continent-sized iron cubes floating in an airy void on which vast armies clash. The cubes occasionally collide, utterly destroying anything caught between them. The second layer known as Thuldanin is the multiverse's junkyard where all the weapons ever made somehow get deposited here. Over time everything, including living beings, turns into an inert solid. Tintibulus is much like the first layer except it holds more of a wider variety of shapes but are still referred to as cubes. This layer is very popular with powerful wizards and magic users who wish to seclude themselves from the rest of the plane. Ocanthus is the final and most lethal of Acheron for it is rumored that this is where the River Styx ends. Large razors of black ice, some even as large as buildings, fly dangerously through the pitch blackness. Anyone visiting the last layer will surely be killed unless they bring very powerful protection.
Chaotic Good. This is the plane of the elven and Greek powers. It is typified by vast rugged geography, immense forests, mountains that peak above the clouds, and other splendors of nature. Being a place of chaotic good, there's an entire layer of hippie-esque free love, free drugs, peace, love, and par-tay!ing.
Lawful Neutral (Good). Arcadia is a plane of law first and good second. Day changes to night with no pause, and vigilant militias of dead paladins patrol the perfectly-straight roads. This is where the good of the group is always ahead of the individual. The formians -- a caste race of ant-centaurs -- are native to Arcadia.
Lawful Evil. 'The Nine Hells' of Baator are the domain of the baatezu (or 'devils'). There are nine layers to the plane, each more terrible than the previous. Avernus, the first layer, is a land of scorched rock, constantly bombarded by fireballs that tumble out of the sky and is a constant battlefield in the Blood War; especially when the Demons are pushing back the devils. But try as they might, Bel's tactical genius prevents them from ever holding onto any territory on Avernus for more than a day. The fact that Devils are immune to fire and thus aren't bothered by the raining fireballs while Demons merely get fire resistance 10 (though balors are totally immune to it) and get loads of pain from them, and the fact that Tiamat, Kurtulmak and quite a few other lawful evil gods live here and gladly provide their hordes of petitioners and outsider servants in defense of the realm probably has something to do with it too. Whenever Kurtulmak provides help it will come in the form of a swarm of kobolds so vast that even the Demons are outnumbered fifty billion to one since so many kobolds die every second.
Neutral Good (Chaotic). Relatively few sentient creatures live on the Beastlands, compared to the number of animals dwelling here - everything from ants and cats to dinosaurs and they're all celestial creatures, meaning that they're all innately good and pure. Most of the plane is wide-open savannas, deep primeval forests, and unfathomable oceans, so it covers most environments with the exception of deserts, mountains, and tundras. Few things are more awesome than meeting a celestial max hit dice tyrannosaurus rex here.
Neutral Good (Lawful). The Twin Realms are stacked in a unique way- imagine them as the floor and ceiling of a great cave, connected by enormous stalactites and stalagmites that merge into each other. Unlike many other planes, where travel between layers is accomplished with portals, the two layers of Bytopia can be reached by climbing one pillar until gravity reverses and one finds themselves climbing 'down' to the other layer. Most people just find it easier to fly, and the place is lousy with hot air balloons. The beings that dwell here are industrious, cheerful, and helpful, in other words, horribly boring unless you're evil (and thus can kill them without going out of character.)
Almost all the best stuff in the planes gets made here, so if you wanna stock up, feel free.
Neutral Evil (Chaotic). The 'Prison Plane' is where the souls of backstabbers and traitors dwell. There are many portals leading to the plane, but very few portals leading out. This started out as "Tartarus" from Greek Mythology, but it was asked "how is this big hole different from the Abyss' big hole" so Jeff Grubb fixed that with help from Dante. These tarterian depths comprise an infinite number of orbs which are like little planets in this plane. The fallen Titans occasionally boss the rest around but the other prisoners say, fuck you, you're not the warden of me. There are also demodands here but nobody gives a toss. Fun trivia: Carceri is Italian for 'prisons'.
Neutral Good (and the entire plane and everything in it will make sure you see things its way).
The Peaceful Plane is a land of soft fields, quiet woods, and calm waters. It is home to the Guardinals, a race of animal-like celestials. Spending too much time on here without having decent spell resistance will cause you go I'M SO HAAAAAPPPPYYYY to the point that you will forget everything and completely refuse to leave the plane of your own will, becoming a Elysian petitioner, which means becoming permanently bound to the plane short of reversing the condition with high-level magic. Now doesn't that just scream overwhelming goodness?
For those who want to do more than kill anything they meet in their D&D experience, there are some interesting quirks here, like losing XP by solving problems with violence, or getting killed by the fact that using magic to hurt people tends to need a spell key, and the locals are a good deal hardier than they appear.
Neutral Evil (Lawful). This plane is comprised of a series of immense double-ended volcanoes, floating in the void. Each volcano is its own layer, and there are no flat surfaces, so if you fall, you'll probably keep falling for a while. The yugoloths (or 'daemons') rule this plane in name, but they aren't native to it and there are several other powerful fiendish races that dwell here as well.
Neutral Evil. The Three Glooms are desolate lands where all color is muted to shades of gray. Visitors soon find their own color fading away, and their ambition soon follows, leaving them empty husks, devoid of emotion. The yugoloths are a powerful force on this plane (they are in fact actually native to the Gray Wastes, it's just that the General of Gehenna decided to move most of Yugoloth kind to Gehenna, though the Oinoloth and those that followed him stayed put), but the night hags and their larvae trade are the real power here; just don't tell that to the Oinoloth unless you enjoy getting super-syphilis (because AIDS just isn't unpleasant enough), as the throne in his dark tower grants him total mastery of disease on the plane and lets him spring up plagues from the dirt that make mummy rot look positively pleasant. It's so fucking depressing that spending too long on it without having decent spell resistance will make you too depressed to remember who you are or have the will to leave the place.
It's also the primary battlefield in the Blood War, just in case you wanted another reason to keep away. The tanar'ri and baatezu use the Gray Waste to slaughter each other in droves here (as well as anything/anyone stupid enough to visit what can be referred to as the anus of the multiverse), as its metaphysical location is halfway between that of Baator and the Abyss.
Chaotic Neutral. Limbo Limbo Limbo chaos ever-changing NO NOT THAT listen berk it's like every mad power CRUMBLING FROM THE INSIDE flowers rusting HOPE SPRINGS DIAGONAL.
Home of the Slaadi, who rule the plane insomuch that one can rule a mess of pure anarchy. This is also the adopted home of the Githzerai, who paradoxically love order and live highly regimented lives (Githzerai monks are as stereotypical as Dwarf Clerics or Orc Barbarians), they live here instead of say Mechanus because they find this plane that so dramatically opposes their way of life to be a great test, despite this excuse, their cities have magic to neutralize the strongly chaotic aligned trait. They used to be more chaotic, but time, shifting editions, and one fuckawesome vidya gaem have changed all that.
The Blood War occasionally comes here, but since both demon and devil are negatively affected by the plane (-2 to all mental stat related checks for demons for being chaotic evil instead of chaotic neutral, -6 to all mental stat related checks for devils for being lawful evil instead of chaotic neutral), the fact that the Slaadi aren't terribly fond of either and are on average a great deal stronger individually than demons or devils (Lemures and Manes are CR1 1 hit dice monsters, Mud Slaad; the equivalent to these two, are CR6. Black Slaadi at the opposite end of the scale are more powerful than any Demon Lord and can overpower most Archdevil aspects and make a mockery of pit fiends and balors) if less organized, and the fact that it's not actually in between either plane keeps these incursions down to a minimum.
Stupidly Lawful Neutral. Mechanus is comprised of immense gears (some of which are thousands of miles in diameter), each revolving in tandem with the other. This is the most orderly of all the Outer Planes. The Modrons are the only native species, making their home at the Tower of Primus at the center of the great gear Regalus. But as of 3.X the Mordons largely dropped off the face of the earth (explained as Tenebrous aka Orcus killing Primus); later editions re-added Modrons but also added the Formians and Inevitables as the joint representatives of the plane.
Lawful Good as the driven snow. The Seven Heavens are comprised of seven ascending peaks on a great mountain. The Mount is surrounded by the Shining Sea, an endless ocean of sparkling holy water. The archons oversee Mount Celestia, from the lantern archons that guide new pilgrims to the throne archons that watch over all else.
Neutral. This is the smallest of the Outer Planes, though it is still technically infinite. The best-known features of the Outlands are the Spire and the sixteen gate-towns that lie in a ring around the "edge" of the plane (imagine a disc with a pen stuck in the middle- Sigil floats above the Spire, and the gate-towns form a ring around the edge). Each gate-town is tied to one of the other Outer Planes, and each contains a permanently open portal to that plane somewhere inside. The gate-towns reflect the plane they lead to, and most inhabitants share the alignment of that plane. Between the gate-towns and the Spire are nine rings (the Outlands' version of planar layers). At the ninth ring, where the gate-towns are, magical spells function more or less normally. As one approaches the Spire, higher-level spells cease to function, starting with ninth-level spells and descending, to the base of the Spire where no magical spells function. Beyond the gate-towns are the Hinterlands, a strange area where space and time break down, and further movement away from the Spire is severely restricted.
Chaotic Neutral (Evil). The four layers of Pandemonium are nothing but an endless series of caves, cut through by a howling wind that never ceases. Exposure to this wind inevitably drives one insane. The first layer is the most open, and each below it becomes more cloistered. The final layer is nothing but a series of air-pockets inside the endless rock. The worst monstrosities of the planes are imprisoned here by the powers. It is said that the Lady of Pain once sent her enemies here before she gained the ability to create Mazes. Essentially, this is the Underdark on steroids, and everyone in it is crazy.
Chaotic Neutral (Good). Ysgard is most famous as the home of the Norse powers, but many other creatures live here, including giants and bariaur (a sort of ram-centaur unique to the Outer Planes). The entire plane is comprised of floating islands of rock--some the size of continents--drifting in an open sky. The undersides of most of these earthburgs burn with a constant magical fire, though in some places the earthburgs float flaming-side up.
If you like getting into fights, but are too cheap to pay for resurrection spells, then Ysgard is the plane for you! Thanks to the special healing qualities of this plane, anyone who dies in battle here gets right back up the next day, just like in old Norse myth.
|The Cosmology of Planescape|
|Inner Planes||Ethereal Plane||Prime Material||Astral Plane||Outer Planes|
|Elemental Planes||Energy Planes||Demiplane of Dread||Plane of Shadow||Plane of Mirrors|
|World Serpent Inn||Tu'narath||Sigil||Demiplanes||Ordial Plane?|
Sigil has a number of factions running around, each believes it holds the absolute truth of the Multiverse and that they should run it. They see their fellow factions either as misguided, dangerous or just a bunch of idiots.
Name: The Athar
Nickname: Defiers, Lost
Philosophy: The "gods" are imposters and frauds. They are not truly divine
Alignment: Any. Athar priests usually get power from the "Great Unknown", an unknowable true divinity they believe in
Factol: Terrance, male human priest
Sigil Headquarters: The Shattered Temple, former temple of the god Aoskar
Post Faction War: Left Sigil, escaped to the Outlands Spire and the Astral Plane.
Main Plane of Influence: Astral
Name: Believers of the Source
Philosophy: The multiverse is a forge, and each life is a test. The point of life is to ascend to godhood and then to some mysterious beyond
Alignment: Any. Godsmen priests suffer a small penalty due to a lack of complete faith
Factol: Ambar Vergrove, male half-elf ranger
Sigil Headquarters: The Great Foundry
Post Faction War: Merged with the Sign of One to form the Mind's Eye.
Main Plane of Influence: Ethereal
Name: The Bleak Cabal
Nickname: Madmen, Bleakers, the Cabal
Philosophy: There is no true "meaning" to the multiverse and no "true" beliefs. Any meaning in life has to come from within.
Alignment: Any non-lawful
Factol: Lhar, male half-orc fighter
Sigil Headquarters: The Gatehouse, an insane asylum
Post Faction War: Disbanded
Main Plane of Influence: Pandemonium
Name: The Doomguard
Philosophy: Entropy is inevitable and divine
Alignment: Any. Priests cannot have the Healing or Creation spheres.
Factol: Pentar, female human ranger
Sigil Headquarters: Armory
Post Faction War: Left Sigil, have citadels at each of the Inner Planes.
Main Plane of Influence: The negative Quasielemental planes
Name: The Dustmen
Nickname: Dusties, Dustbunnies
Philosophy: This multiverse is not the real one; we're all dead. The goal is to overcome passion and emotion and achieve the nirvana of True Death.
Sigil Headquarters: The Mortuary, where Sigil's dead are buried or cremated
Post Faction War: Disbanded
Main Plane of Influence: Negative Energy Plane
Name: The Fated
Nickname: Takers, Heartless
Philosophy: The Multiverse belongs to those who hold it. If you can take something, or earn it, you deserve it. Weakness is an excuse
Members Alignment: Any, except Lawful Good
Factol: Duke Rowan Darkwood, male human ranger/priest
Sigil Headquarters: Hall of Records, Sigil's tax office
Post Faction War: Left Sigil, moved their HQ to Ysgard.
Main Plane of Influence: Ysgard
Name: The Fraternity of Order
Philosophy: The Planes are governed by laws. Laws can be learned. Learn the laws, and you can rule the multiverse
Members Alignment: Any Lawful
Factol: Hashkar, male Dwarf sage. He has had many amorous adventures.
Sigil Headquarters: The City Court
Post Faction War: Left Sigil, have strongholds in Mechanus.
Main Plane of Influence: Mechanus
Name: The Free League
Philosophy: No faction knows the whole truth, or should tell anyone what to do. Each person should be free to find his own truth. (Due to their beliefs, the Free League considers itself more an informal group of free-thinkers watching each other's backs than a faction.)
Sigil Headquarters: The Great Bazaar
Post Faction War: Disbanded
Main Plane of Influence: Outlands
Name: The Harmonium
Philosophy: Everything should live in perfect peace and harmony - under the Harmonium's rule, that is
Alignment: Any lawful
Factol: Sarin, male human paladin
Sigil Headquarters: City Barracks
Post Faction War: Left Sigil and took up diplomacy in Arcadia.
Main Plane of Influence: Arcadia
Name: The Mercykillers
Nickname: Red Death
Philosophy: Justice is everything. When properly applied, punishment leads to perfection
Alignment: Any lawful. Thieves and known criminals not allowed
Factol: Alisohn Nilesia, female tiefling wizard
Sigil Headquarters: Prison
Main Plane of Influence: Acheron
Name: The Revolutionary League
Philosophy: The power structures and man-made laws of the multiverse are inherently corrupt. The Factions are keeping everyone from finding the real truth of the multiverse. The only solution is to tear everything down and rebuild with what's left
Alignment: Any non-Lawful
Factol: None. The Anarchists operate in "cells"
Sigil Headquarters: None
Post Faction War: Left Sigil, fled to Carceri, splintered off the Second Wave.
Main Plane of Influence: Carceri
Name: The Sign of One
Philosophy: Everyone is at the center of their own multiverse, and reality itself can be altered with the power of imagination
Alignment: Any, except Lawful Good and Lawful Neutral
Factol: Darius, female human diviner
Sigil Headquarters: Hall of Speakers
Post Faction War: Merged with the Believers of the Source to form the Mind's Eye.
Main Plane of Influence: Beastlands
Name: The Society of Sensation
Philosophy: Through experience, one gains knowledge. Once everything has been experienced, enlightenment can be reached
Factol: Erin Montgomery, female human priest
Sigil Headquarters: Civic Festhall
Post Faction War: Still in Sigil and have spread to other large cities.
Main Plane of Influence: Arborea
Name: The Transcendent Order
Philosophy: Action without thought is the purest. When you train your body and mind to act as one, you can become one with the Multiverse itself
Alignment: any Neutral
Factol: Rhys, female tiefling figter/mage
Sigil Headquarters: Great Gymnasium
Post Faction War: Still in Sigil, still run the Great Gymnasium.
Main Plane of Influence: Elysium
Name: The Xaositects
Philosophy: There is no order to reality. No truth except Chaos
Members Alignment: any Chaotic
Factol: Karan, male githzerai fighter
Sigil Headquarters: The Hive, Sigil's least organised Ward
Post Faction War: "Disbanded"
Main Plane of Influence: Limbo
The Clueless are not truly a faction; every prime that has recently arrived from his prime world and knows nothing about the planes is a Clueless. Being a Clueless is dangerous, in fact, as you could make a lethal mistake without knowing.
|Factions formed during or after the Faction War:|
Lesser forms of the factions are the Sects. They mostly live on a single Outer Plane from which they spread their teachings and try to change the Multiverse to fit their image. These include:
- The Anarch's Guild. Setting up kip in Limbo, the Chaos Masters (or Groundsmen) train a narrow, yet very potent skill: chaos-shaping. This is the art of taking the raw matter of Limbo and reshaping it into something usable. The Slaad and the petitioners of this realm have little use for such powers, but for the creators of the skill, the Githzerai, this is instrumental to the continued existence of their cities. By far the most Anarchs are Githzerai, but over the course of the years they have begun to train non-Githzerai as some kind of reward. These non-Gith often leave their masters upon completion of their training and go to found their own schools. Githzerai only refer to their own institutes as being part of the Anarch's Guild, while outsiders use this name for all those who teach chaos-shaping. While the non-Githzerai Anarchs are more likely to train a cutter, the quality of their skills greatly varies and none of them are on the same level as the Githzerai masters. Outside of Limbo they attract scorn, mainly because no matter how powerful of a chaos-shaper a body is, their powers are meaningless outside of Limbo.
- The Converts. With all the different beliefs in the Planes, some people want to try them all, looking at everything with every potential outlook. You see, the Converts (Chameleons, Turncoats) believe that since nobody seems to know absolutely everything no one group holds all wisdom. Even then, the more you learn the more questions you have and you eventually reach the point where you realize that the Multiverse is too big for mortals to understand. Not that it'll stop the Converts from trying to. They do this by joining other factions: learning their outlook and what they're all about before moving on to the next. And since nobody is 100% correct, everyone could be partially correct. So by joining all the factions and learning from them Converts try to put the truth together themselves.
- The Dispossessed. Pandemonium is a prime location for people with power to exile folk to. Over the course of millennia the plane has been filled with the exiled, the banished, the spurned and other such groups. As one wanders around they might eventually be approached by one of the Dispossessed. They offer a helping hand and a listening ear, while offering the dispossessed (also called Exiles or Chippers, but not Banished which they consider a slur) a chance to get back at who caused trouble for them in the first place. As such groups of Dispossessed set out to take revenge and show the regular people of the Planes such as the inhabitants of Sigil that the Cagers aren't that good compared to the Dispossessed. This often gets them into trouble with other groups, especially the Harmonium given the Exiles' love for picking fights.
- The Mathematicians. A sect splintered from the Guvners, the Mathematicians hold that everything that you can imagine can be found on Mechanus in some form, and by cataloguing this and applying logic, symbolism and math to this one can unlock the secrets of the plane. They don't do this for riches or power: they are a group of serious minds who want to discover the secrets of the plane for scholastic reasons. While they still have a long way to go their stay on Mechanus has impaired the Mathematicians with a superior understanding of the Labyrinthine Portal, the network of portals on Mechanus that links every single cog with another one. With this understanding the members of this sect can calculate in record time in which order you have to go through the portals in order to get to where you want to go. Lawful people of superior intelligence are welcome to join them, but it is expected of members to not share their findings with non-members.
- The Guardians. Dedicated to doing good in every possible form, respecting freedom and do not meddle in internal affairs. These are the tenets of the Guardians, a group dedicated to vanquishing evil. The Caretakers (also known as the Protectors) have their home base on Elysium, alongside many smaller bases in the Outer Ring, Sigil and the Material. The Guardians associate themselves with one particular kind of Guardinal and wear tokens resembling these beings. Leonals are seen as leaders, like their leader Prince Azlan. The sect is rather hands-off with their members, and as long as they keep an eye out for evil, do not get involved in politics or commit evil they can do what they see fit. The Guardians have a good reputation amongst all non-evil cutters, something that the sect finds important to uphold.
- The Order of the Planes-Militant. A relatively young faction (1000 years, which is nothing in the grand scheme of things), the Children of Heaven (also known as the Brethren or the Faithful) live on Celestia which they protect and spread order and goodness from. They have been rather active: they have brought over large swathes of land from both the Outlands and Arcadia and restrained those who would undo this. The Brethren can be found on those two planes and Bytopia to plead lawful goodness to their inhabitants. The Order demands oaths of obedience and poverty of its members, which is why there are rarely any Chaotic or Evil members amongst its ranks. They are not excluded from joining however: those who display good will are welcome and often find themselves turning Lawful Good over the years.
- The Ring-givers. The Ring-givers believe that all those who give to others will be given to themselves. Wizards give their time and effort to amass knowledge and spells, clerics give devotion to receive power, and so on. As such the Givers developed an unique talent: whenever they give something to someone that person feels obligated to give them something in return. What this return gift is depends on the gift they were given, the power of the receiver compared to that of the Ring-giver (Bargainers, Beggars) in question and how much that particular member is carrying on them at the time. Evil Ring-givers can use their powers to strike bargains with Tanar'ri that the fiends sometimes honor for a bit, which makes these Bargainers rather dangerous.
- The Verdant Guild. The Wylders believe that the wilderness is the foundation of life and endure past any civilization. People need the resources of the wild to survive, and as such it needs to be protected. As such, any non-lawful and non-evil people join the Verdant Guild in what is essentially saving the trees. The sect's headquarters is on the Beastlands, where they live in peace alongside nature and the animals there. The Wylders all wear animal masks they made themselves, which serves as both a badge of office and the ability to talk with the animal depicted on the mask. In addition, because of their time on the Beastlands the Wylders tend to pick up on navigating skills, becoming able to find their way around even in new locations.
Published Planescape books
- Planescape Campaign Setting
- Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix I
- Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix II
- Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix III
- The Factol's Manifesto. Details the factions, their important members, and the factions' headquarters.
- Faces of Evil: The Fiends. Details the major and minor races of the Lower Planes. Introduces Xanxost the Slaad: easily distracted, always hungry, and hilarious.
- A Guide to the Astral Plane. Details the physical (well, quasi-physical) nature of the Astral and its inhabitants.
- A Guide to the Ethereal Plane. Details the Border, Deep Ethereal, inhabitants, and includes rules for creating demiplanes.
- Hellbound: The Blood War. Details the Blood War; includes three adventures and a Grubb comic with art by Tony DiTerlizzi. Monte Cook later admitted he was listening to The Downward Spiral for this one.
- The Inner Planes. Details the Inner Planes.
- In The Cage: A Guide to Sigil. Details locations and personalities of Sigil.
- On Hallowed Ground. Details the Powers of the Outer Planes, their realms, and their followers.
- Planes of Chaos. Details the chaotically-aligned Outer Planes.
- Planes of Conflict. Details the neutrally-aligned Outer Planes. Extremely uneven in quality.
- Planes of Law. Details the lawfully-aligned Outer Planes.
- A Player's Primer to the Outlands. Details the realms and locations of the Outlands; includes an audio CD with tracks representing information given by a mimir (a magical speaking skull).
- Uncaged: Faces of Sigil. Details important NPC figures in Sigil.
Most of these are anthologies or (like Dead Gods) linear stops between one set piece to another (but in the Planes!) - so they may as well be anthologies. Da Vinci Code had proved to late 1990s authors that they could get away with this style of narrative.
- The Eternal Boundary
- Well of Worlds
- In the Abyss The low point in this line. More like "In the Bin" amirite??
- The Deva Spark
- Fires of Dis A high point. The (mostly) good plane Arcadia has lost a Macguffin. The parties venture through the first two layers of Baator to retrieve said Macguffin from Dis himself, avoiding pitfalls both physical and moral. Dante would have been proud of the cynicism and satire on display, and that the module didn't wholly succumb to it.
- Harbinger House
- Something Wild
- Doors to the Unknown
- The Great Modron March The Modrons are on the move and that's the thread bringing these setpieces together. Foreshadows the return of Orcus whom You Know Who had exiled.
- Faction War
- Tales from the Infinite Staircase
- Die Vecna Die! Technically not in the Planescape line.
- Expedition to the Demonweb Pits There is official Planescape content for 3.5. The start of the module in chapter 2 (the first is all background info for the DM) has the party arriving in Sigil, with an overview of the city and its rules given. After this it's still expected to be the party's base of operations until the end of the module. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond the comprehension of mortals, Wizards of the Coast decided it would be a great idea to not mention the Planescape connection at any point in the book description. Thus even dedicated fans of the setting often have no idea it exists. Not helped by that the module itself is kinda meh outside of the Planescape stuff.
- Assorted fiction at the Wings of Mephits Fiction Archive
- Blood Wars Trilogy by J. Robert King
- Fire and Dust by James Gardner, a fairly good novel available free (and legally!) online.
- Pages of Pain by Troy Denning, includes a possible back-story for the Lady of Pain
- Planescape: Torment by Ray & Vallerie Vallesse, the official novelization of the video-game based on pre-development information, in contrast with...
- Planescape: Torment an adaptation by Rhys Hess, the better received unofficial fan-novel of the video-game.
Whilst the sections above list everything that actually bears the Planescape marker, the city of Sigil has managed to survive in D&D better than the formal setting has. Sigil is fleshed out in detail in the Manual of the Planes for both Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition and Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, with the latter being 98% a reprint of the former. The 4e version of Sigil was expanded upon in the 4e Dungeon Master's Guide 2. Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition gives Sigil little mention except for saying that it exists and has portals.
These post-AD&D versions of Sigil depict a post-Faction War take on the city, with the Factions having faded into the woodwork and a rising new power structure made up of guilds and gangs lacking the philosophical unifying power of the original Sigil.
Additionally, even before that, TSR put out at least two planes-focused splatbooks that weren't branded as part of the Planescape line: A Guide to Hell and Warriors of Heaven. The latter is particularly egregious in its exemption, as it provides expanded information for all of the major celestials of the Upper Planes, including full-fledged PC stats, and has the long-missing "random generation tables for Aasimar.
Planescape: Torment was a PC game made by Black Isle Studios in the vein of Baldur's Gate, based primarily around Sigil and other areas of the Planescape setting. You play a pissed off amnesiac zombie, with a party of a wise-cracking skull, a chaste succubus, and an insane TV voiced by Homer Simpson. You get to kill a guy by arguing him out of existence. Over a million words of dialogue.
While fans defend it zealously, the truth of the matter is that the setting is not without its critics; many harsh comments have been laid at its feet over the years.
For one thing, the heavy use of the 'Cant' has been both praised as adding to the game's feel and attacked as making the sourcebooks a pain in the ass to read and thus potentially alienating to players who can't wrap their heads around it. It doesn't help that the Cant is both recognizably based on 1800s British Cockney slang, and used without a lot of care - the term "berk", which the Cant flings around freely as equivalent to the 90s surf-bum's "Dude", actually means "cunt" in Cockney, for example (which makes the Cant the D&D version of Australian English).
Then there are the Factions, which aimed to replace or at least to nuance that hoary Alignment straitjacket with philosophy. Some of the factions are pretty well loved. Others are seen more as "nice ideas, bad execution". And then... there are the other ones that shouldn't exist, at least not for player characters. Such have proven, kender-style, to cause internal conflict and disruption. For example, a Fated membership is easily abused to justify bullying the party or stealing from it, whilst the Xaositects outright expect a player to play Chaotic Stupid.
Then there's the cosmology that Planescape runs on itself. As a setting involving actual gods, it runs into The Problem Of Elminster: where players cannot and arguably should not threaten certain NPCs. This constrains the stakes of the narrative.
As to the overall setting, we awaited the expansions to see how they'd fix certain narrative issues we could see coming as long ago as 1979 and then 1987, in particular how to handle the heavenly planes where there didn't look to be any real conflict therefore adventure. Here skub has seethed around the "Planes of Conflict" (the Outer Planes that sit in between two Alignment-exemplifying Outer Planes) and the Elemental Planes. The general theme of such complaints tends to focus on how comparatively bland and disinteresting such planes are perceived as being, arguing that they feel more like they were used to mark points off of a checklist than having actual interesting ideas for DMs to explore there and, yes, the Good aligned planes were absolutely phoned-in here. The Elemental Planes also get attacked for their sheer lethality and perceived emptiness; critics arguing that they serve little more than the setting's equivalent of the monster generating pits in Gauntlet. We resented having to purchase three (3) boxes to get all the lore for the Lower Planes which we needed to run campaigns where it mattered. It all should have been one setting box (supplemented with Faces of Evil, Hellbound etc.); for the heavens, a splatbook aimed at player-characters, for magic and items.
And it doesn't help that Planescape was actually made to cash in on the same audience as the World of Darkness, and that the tonal comparisons are obvious - the whole existence of the Harmonium is often cited as one try-hard attempt at being "punk".
And that's just talking about the game. There are also complaints about the game's players, who have a reputation for both being especially grognardy and for arrogance, which stems at least partially from the conceited, know-it-all tone of the game's viewpoint characters.