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What is the Planescape Setting?

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 them.

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).