View Full Version : Planescape campaign help

2012-02-16, 10:49 AM
First off I apoligize if this is in the wrong forum but, since it was setting related and not rules related I thought it would go here.

I am the DM in my group and my players have asked me to run a planescape campaign. I am not very familiar with the setting but I agreed to run it. I have been reading through the materials at planewalker.com, and I have an idea for a campaign seed but I could use some help fleshing it out. My idea is that since the wards around the portals in sigil are weakening for whatever reason (I still haven't decided) Sigil's portal's no longer require keys to travel through them. What I need help with is ideas for how this would affect the setting and especially Sigil. My current plan for this is that the PC's are going to be among the first to discover this anomaly. I was thinking that eventually the wards would weaken enough that powers could pass through (this would happen toward the end of the campaign).

2012-02-16, 11:40 AM
Not much that is immediately obvious, I would think. Giving Sigil's trademark business spirit, most important gates should have guides knowing the keys or even businesses especially selling them for overinflated prices, so trade routes shouldn't be disrupted much.

Three things I can see change:
1. Touts, Mimirs and key-sellers going out of business: this would likely cause the usual unrest that always occurs when segments of the population lose their income and profession. Rioting, attempts to block the now "free" gates and demand tolls, and so on.
2. Secret gate keys lose their value. Knowing a gate key no one else knows has other values. "Two thousand years ago, the great Archmage Zalamargos travelled through this gate, knowing that no one could follow him to his lair, without the mystical key, the Staff of Tarkhan!" or "Haha! You will never catch me, Hardheads, because only I know the key to this convenient escape portal!" or "I will make an immense profit, now that I have found a portal and key leading directly from the fresh sea lakes of Elysium to the deserts of the quasielemental palne of salt!" There's a lot of potential here.
3. Usually hard to use gates are now easier to use. Perhaps there was a gate that only opens every thousand years, and the locals on the other side have a recurring ritual in their culture about the mystical rich city in the sky that only once every millenium admits a single hero through a magic gate. Or there is a ritual that one can only pass when holding a diamond the size of a fist, that leads into an exclusive spa on the other side. Think of ideas like that. A lot of places will suddenly be much less exclusive.

Mark Hall
2012-02-16, 12:29 PM
Rely's got some good ideas, but there's another, more sinister option:

If every doorway is a potential gate, then every doorway has one or more gates attached to it. You wind up with utter pandemonium (and panarchonium, panmodronium, pandiabolum)... gates activate at random, across the multiverse, dumping a mother into Hell when she goes to check on her child, or a burglar into the Harmonium headquarters when he tries to sneak through a window.

2012-02-16, 12:37 PM
Right. I totally forgot that one. If there are no keys, all the gates are permanently open. You'd basically destroy the city with that. Why? Because everything is a gate. People couldn't open their bathroom door without being dumped into the River Styx. People would be trapped inside shops because even climbing through the window could strand them on the plane of vaccuum. Even breaking through the wall doesn't work: as soon as you create a new opening, it turns into a portal. The only way to leave your house and actually landing on the street would be either teleporting through the wall or breaking out at least two of said walls completely, floor to ceiling.

In fact, there was a woman in Planescape: Torment who was afraid of just such a situation: she once stepped through a random door into Sigil, and every time since then when she stepped to any opening, she landed into some horrible torture dimension, so now she is a wreck sitting in a corner afraid to move a muscle.

If you do not want this to end in the complete destruction of all architecxture in Sigil and half its population stranded on eternal cruise vacation on Elysium, consider giving the portals some other limitation. Make them only open to peope who want to step through. Or make it time-limited: they only open every five minutes for a round, with a visual clue.

Addendum: That reminds me of a fun conspiracy theory from the Planewalker boards. Every opening and closed structure in Sigil is a gate. All of Sigil is a giant ring or, in other words, an opening.
There was a theory that the entire torus is a portal into some weird alternate dimension(1) no one has ever seen, since the Lady is holding the key. Have fun with that one later in the game.

(1): The Far Realms. Eternal Life. Ed Greenwood's Bathroom on Earth. Overpowerhood. CHIM. Fourth Edition. The Plane of Squirrels with Rings of Levitation and Oversized Cloaks. Bizarro World. Free Ice Cream. The Beginning of the Multiverse. The End of the Multiverse. That horrible Novel where the Lady of Pain was Poseidon's daughter. And so on. Take your Pick.

2012-02-18, 11:04 PM
Or a region in Astral Space where lies a million eldritch abominations who periodically wake up every several thousand years to wipe out current civilizations before going back to sleep.

Why yes, I'm a Mass Effect fanboy :D

As for the OP: Sigil's famous for being an absolute neutral territory from the Blood War and deities alike. If portals are weakened enough that the powers are able to waltz through:

1. What would the gods do? Are they still afraid of the Lady being able to kill them off with a wink? Or will a thousand war gods band together to take on Sigil by themselves?

2. What would the Lady do? AFAIK, the Lady is the ultimate authority on Sigil's portal behaviour since she killed off the previous god of portals and took his portfolio. Maybe something happened to her and she disappeared? The Lady's absence is also a good motivation for the gods to start tramping through Sigil.

3. What would the fiends do? The gods gaining control of Sigil is too big of an advantage against the Lower Planes. I can see Asmodeus at least planting agents all over Sigil to prepare for some secret plan to wrest control of the city if the gods ever use it as a staging area.

In any case, I can't see Sigil's original inhabitants being anything other than minor annoyances to the above. Unless they're the PCs with some long-forgotten MacGuffin to either restore the status quo, or evacuate the city entirely, or whatever direction your campaign is heading.

2012-02-20, 08:39 AM
Yeah, all gates being permanently open is a HUGE deal. At the very least, I'd recommend spreading out the disruption of portals. Start with major, well known portals, or put limitations on it. Sigil's portal behavior is an important part of a lot of plots to begin with, because it lets you lock off areas until players gain certain knowledge (i.e. you need to pretend this doorway isn't a door, need to hop through on your left foot, need to carry a piece of charcoal in the pocket of a pair of overalls while doing the Macarena).

When ALL portals become active, Sigil instantly becomes incredibly chaotic, so you'll want to delay that a bit. I'd recommend planning out a bunch of areas to be randomly teleported to, possibly some of which have plot significance. You're probably going to need some specialized magical items or methods for detecting portals and possibly for shutting them down temporarily (otherwise moving is impossible). Alternatively, make it something amusing like "the only way to not activate the portal is to use the portal key".

Powers passing into Sigil is REALLY bad. As mentioned above, this probably means something is causing the Lady to not be doing her thing correctly, for whatever reason. I'd strongly recommend that you avoid "revealing" the Lady, because while she's a great mystery, that's sort of her purpose and reason to be. I'd also recommend against messing with her omnipotence, because that's another one of her defining traits. Anything that inconveniences her needs to be on a huge scale.

Anyways, with Powers in Sigil, I'd expect them to set up safe havens (disabling portals? Generally imposing DIVINE WILL) and establish zones of control. It's possible some of the Factions would do similar things (I suspect some of them, without the restrictions on Powers, could elevate their own leaders to god-like status through belief), and how they'd interact with gods would be interesting. Expect chaos and carnage as Sigil becomes a microcosm of the Great Wheel, except everything is packed more tightly together.
How do you fix that? Depends on the cause. Try to make it something suitably epic. The conspiracy theory Eldan mentioned seems like an appropriate start.

Also, remember that EVERYTHING in Planescape runs on belief. If portals are opening everywhere and powers are coming through, it's because that's what people EXPECT to happen. Why? What could make them stop believing that?

2012-02-23, 04:51 AM
Also, remember that EVERYTHING in Planescape runs on belief. If portals are opening everywhere and powers are coming through, it's because that's what people EXPECT to happen. Why? What could make them stop believing that?

To build off this point, I'd like to quote something I found on Planewalker about what defines a Planescape game: "Is it about the movers and the shakers- the creatures from the pits of the Lower Planes as well as the celestial entities from the highest heights? Is it about strange locations with exotic names, and the hardened travelers who would brave the planar pathways to find them? Or is it perhaps about the challenging philosophies and the ideas of alien thinkers, colliding worldviews, and the fact that a single idea can reshape the multiverse like nothing else could ever hope to? Yes, the last one rings true."

Your campaign idea sounds like it has a lot of good potential. My only suggestion is to consider the philosophical aspects of Planescape as well. You needn't force your PCs to have endless intellectual debates, but if certain questions or concepts keep cropping up, it can add another layer to the campaign. I vividly remember the central question of Planescape: Torment, and that game really made me think, even as I hacked my way through hordes of fiends.

With Sigil's portals out of whack, you've got a lot of different directions you could take this. "What defines a city?", "All the factions will get their desires and find them empty" [e.g. the Anarchists get anarchy but lose their political power, Sensates are overwhelmed with new sensations from broken portals] or "With open communication, who benefits most?" [or some other internet-related theme] are the first few options that sprung to my mind.