Friday, January 13, 2012

Planescape: Looking Back

I remember when Planescape came out back in 1994, it kind of changed things in D&D.  In some ways this was good, and in others bad.  I recall being a very narrow-minded teen at the time, and my first introduction to anything "Planescape" came in the form of an acquaintance named Joe.  Joe was a power gamer, in the truest sense of the word.  He was min-maxing before there was such a thing.  My group of friends never were really into that aspect of the game.  We always preferred to play characters from the PHB with actual real stats we rolled, with flaws, and who weren't indestructible superheroes.  We liked to focus more on the roleplaying aspect of the game.  As such, we never were big on munchkins entering our sessions.

Enter Joe.  You see, Joe was playing (what else?) a tiefling.  He had been running this tiefling with a few of his friends in the Planescape setting and wanted to enter our campaign.  I had no idea what a tiefling was, and when he told me it was half-demon from the Planescape setting, I immediately put up a mental block for all things involving the setting.  It had, in my opinion at the time, spawned a layer of such cheese that I refused to take it seriously as a campaign world.  Of course, over the years I think the tiefling has developed in the game into something that truly epitomizes what old schoolers hate about the current iterations of the game, going from optional player characters in later editions, to a core race in 4e.

Now, that is not to knock anyone who enjoys playing tieflings.  Truth be told, Joe could have been playing anything and it would have been irritating (especially considering he was toting around a vorpal blade of all things).  My point here being Joe turned me off of the setting years ago because he was a munchkin, and due to my naivety I presumed that if Joe=munchkin playing tiefling from Planescape then Planescape must=cheesy power gamer setting.  Having the chance to look back at it now and review some of the material I've found for it, I hate that I never gave it a shot, because it rocks...a lot.

Sigil, the City of Doors

Sigil, the home base for the setting, is a perfect example of introducing "weird" into a game.  Basically the place at the center of the multiverse, with doors to anywhere in the prime material and outer planes, the possibilities within it are potentially endless.  What really strikes me as amazing is the city's layout.  Shaped in the form of a torus like ring, one can literally look up and see the city wrap around with buildings above them.   The city wards themselves change at randomly making it really impossible to fully ever map.  And of course, there are the doors themselves which lead to pretty much any plane of existence one can think of.  Some being hidden, open, locked, etc.  The possibilities for adventure in Sigil alone seem endless.

I'm not sure if I'll ever get to run Carcosa or not, but if it ends up being a "player dump" into that world, I can definitely see them traveling through Sigil.  So, are there any Planescape gamers out there?  Anyone ever used Sigil or any of the other Planescape elements in their campaigns?


  1. I was in a game where we went to Sigil, this was a hybrid 1/2E game with sprinklings of Hackmaster thrown in. It was an interesting place. None of us had ANY idea what was going on. The only saving grace was my character, a dwarven priest, had horded some silver an we entered the realm of Selune, where gold was useless and silver was the best money to have.
    Overall, it is an interesting place and I would like to study more of it if I ever run a game.

    1. So, did Sigil itself just sort of serve as the base? I think traveling to the different planes would be somewhat interesting, but you could have limitless adventures in Sigil alone.

  2. I love the setting, and it's my clear favourite of the AD&D2 campaign worlds -- which, considering how brilliant Spelljammer and Dark Sun are, is saying something! -- but alas I've never played in it.

    1. So, did you run games in it then or did you not have the opportunity to play or DM in the world? I never did Spelljammr, but Dark Sun was amazing.

    2. The closest I got was the computer game Planescape: Torment, and even then I only started playing it last year.

      My original gaming group was a bit D&D-ignorant; we played a couple of sessions of BECMI and one session of AD&D2 -- Night Below as I recall -- but for the most part we played Call of Cthulhu, Shadowrun and all sorts of other stuff, even the Mutant Chronicles rpg, for which I will be eternally sorry.

      It was only after a ten year gap -- by coincidence, the entire lifespan of D&D3 -- that I got back into gaming, with a group much more friendly to The Game, but by then Planescape was long dead. A shame.

  3. I basically reuse elements in all my campaigns. I use the big wheel, travel to the planes, show the players maps from the boxed sets, little planar adventures are inspired by the text in the boxed sets. None of the players have ever decided that they'd want to search for access to Sigil itself and thus it never got to be the starting point of a campaign.