What is the Planescape
By Ken Lipka
Yes, all you veterans already know
what's here, but for our newer players, I'll attempt to say what Planescape is
all about. To quote Inigo Montoya, "Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let
me sum up." Those of you who played in my last campaign understand perfectly. We
played for nearly two years and you guys were still finding out new stuff about
how the game world worked. So, I'll just hit the very basic highlights of the
setting. I'll sit down with folks individually to explain in more details things
that directly affect your character.
First, picture a normal campaign setting. It could be Oerth (the
World of Greyhawk), Toril (the Forgotten Realms), or Mer (the world of Dark
Water). Regardless of the specific planet, they're all pretty normal, right?
You've got plants, animals, and people; mountains, cities, and oceans. The world
might be trapped in the throes of an ice age, or could be mostly ocean with only
a few islands poking above the waters. The key thing is that each is singular
and tends to compose the whole of a character's world and reality.
Planescape is about everything else.
Planescape is set in the Spirit World, the Afterlife, the
Kingdom of Dreams, the Elemental Planes, and thousands of other alternate
realities that make up the rest of the Multiverse. A normal campaign world is
called the Material Plane; these other realities are the Outer (and Inner)
Planes. The planes are the homes of gods, fiends, celestials, and other
mysterious creatures. And your PC is going to be right there in the middle of
In many ways, a campaign that uses Planescape is the same as any
other. The PCs have a home city they live in, and they travel beyond its walls
to seek out adventure. The difference is that the scope of the travel and the
adventures is much grander than on the Material plane. It is perfectly normal
(in Planescape) to live in a city built in the shadow of a fallen god's ribcage
then enter a magical gate to work in a city that clings to side of an iron gear
the size of a continent. Surrealism just became reality.
Because the campaign takes place primarily in the home of the
gods, it is very important to remember that belief has power. In Planescape,
faith can literally move mountains. If enough beings in one location believe in
a certain concept, they can actually move the real estate around them from its
current plane to one more suited to their beliefs. Additionally, strong beliefs
can give beings powers and abilities that those of lesser faith don't have. The
most common example of this is a series of groups collectively known as "The
Factions". A Faction can be thought of as a "thought guild"; although a better
concept is that it's a group of "philosophers with clubs". A Faction is a group
of people who all believe the same way about the point of the multiverse and are
willing to fight to prove the rightness of their cause. This collective belief
gives every member abilities related to their belief.
If the Planescape setting has an official center, it would be
Sigil, the City of Doors (also called the Cage). This city is built on the
inside of a gigantic stone ring, which floats above the top of an infinitely
tall spire in the center of an infinite plane. (Does your brain hurt yet?) Sigil
is the ultimate cosmopolitan metropolis and neutral meeting ground - angels and
devils are known to sit down and share a drink in a bar. Everyone and everything
passes through its portals at some point. It is ruled by a mysterious figure
known as the Lady of Pain. The city is also home to the headquarters of all the
various Factions (of which there are only 15).