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Charles Phipps
Master of Realmslore

1419 Posts

Posted - 08 Dec 2023 :  03:28:06  Show Profile  Visit Charles Phipps's Homepage Send Charles Phipps a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
https://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/2023/12/thirteen-tips-for-running-planescape.html

Planescape is one of my favorite campaign settings. It was a breath of fresh air when it came out in 1994, contradicting the more traditional Tolkien influenced ones already published. The City of Doors had a million portals leading to the Outer Planes and Prime Material Planes but also its own unique culture. Factions were determined by philosophical concepts while also being as greedy and power hungry as ones driven by bloodline or faith.

However, how to run Sigil is something that a lot of people struggle with. They get caught up in the Cant, the confusing nature of Factions, and the infinite possibilities. They struggle to figure out how to do low level games where a Balor is running the local newspaper. Where do you begin? Where do you end? Well, here's some suggestions.

1:] Planescape as Fantasy Noir and Dungeon Punk

Planescape is fundamentally unlike other Dungeons and Dragons settings and I feel that's mood more than the fact it is full of fiends as well as angels rubbing shoulders. For me, it is a place where Good vs. Evil is no longer the central premise. If I had to describe it, I would go with fantasy noir where the system is much bigger than any individual heroes. The player characters may save the Multiverse from Vecna or the Faction War but they'll still need to cover rent the next month. Ground your stories in the setting and embrace the grime of rusty swords, back alley deals, and homeless Tieflings pick-pocketing fat clerics. You can have big epic heroism but, sadly, that's a thankless job in the City of Doors.

2:] Sigil is a character

Sigil is Mos Eisley, New York, Casablanca, and Ankh Morpok rolled into one. It is a dirty, grimy, and cosmopolitan city that should be one of the worst places in the Multiverse to live if you're poor but also somewhere that most of the inhabitants would never dream of leaving. I emphasize it is a city of refugees and if you want to escape the Blood War, flee from your god, or disappear because all of the orcs on your planet have been exterminated by elves then this is the place to go. Everyone has a story and usually it involves, "Go to the absolute most neutral place in the Multiverse because no one else gives a crap."

3:] Give your players a stake in Sigil

A recommendation I have for player characters in Planescape is they shouldn't ever be full-time adventurers. Being a full-time mercenary is suicidal when you're as likely to be hired to fight Pit Fiends as well as goblins. Instead, I recommend the PCs pick and choose their jobs in-between some other profession in Sigil. Give the player characters their own inn, bar, festhall (ahem), or pawnshop to run in-between adventures. It will give them a sense they can't just uproot themselves and head off when things get bad.

4:] The Harmonium as antagonists

In most noir and punk settings, the police are useless or actively corrupt. In most D&D settings, the City Watch is more background noise. Most PCs are able to throw them around like rag dolls once they get past 1st or 2nd level. The Harmonium and other engines of "justice" like the Fraternity of Order and Mercykillers aren't like that. They go from 1st to 20th level just like PCs. However, as the elves and gnomes of Ortho found out, good intentions do not equal Lawful Good.
Unless one or more of the PCs are Harmonium themselves, I recommend treating them as a constant never-ending obstacle to the heroes. People who are constantly harassing every Tiefling, Chaotic race, poor person, or person who isn't part of the Lawful "respectable" factions. It gives a nice answer as to why the PCs are the only ones who can be turned to as well as adds a layer of secrecy to their efforts. After all, killing a fiendish slave marketer is still murder so the PCs better do it in secret.

5:] Don't trust Alignments

One thing that Planescape was criticized for in Second Edition was that a lot of the Good aligned characters didn't act particularly good (Rowan Darkwood being Chaotic Good) and a lot of the evil monsters weren't. This is more of a feature than a bug as Sigil as the center of the Plane of Neutrality almost requires you to be willing to look past the usual stereotypes of D&D. You can be good friends with demons who are bad but loyal, angels can be manipulative psychopaths justifying everything for the greater good, and elves can be racist snooty dirtbags (oh wait, that's just how they are in 90% of D&D campaigns).

6:] Embrace the Weird

The appeal of Planescape is you can encounter virtually anything on your travels. Gigantic steampunk cities full of robot people on Mechanus, a kingdom of giant talking animals straight out of a fable, an obviously cyberpunk world ala Shadow Run or the typical "everyone good is evil and vice versa" ala DC comics? Go wild. Don't be afraid to go outside the Great Wheel cosmology either. Sigil is a place where every kind of weird sort of creature can be encountered and even if they're 1st Level Commoners, you can insert a sentient race of humanoid corgis who are all psionicists.

7:] Keep a Home Base and Recurring Cast

As mentioned in the stakes part of the suggestion list, Sigil is a place where you should keep player characters centrally located. Plenty of adventurers are wanderers in other lands but Sigil is a place where you can go anywhere and everywhere in an instant. Giving them a home base to work from is something that will help them stay invested. The PCs don't have to own the Explorers' Guild, Delivery Service, or whatnot but it certainly would help. Similarly, it's a good idea to give PCs a regular supporting cast around Sigil from neighbors to co-workers to employees. Keep a list of NPC cards or short paragraphs of local residents too if you can.

8:] Low Fantasy, High Magic, Mid-Tech

Planescape's Sigil is the kind of place where you can be shanked for the coppers in your purse. However, it's also the kind of place where you can buy the Rod of Seven Parts in a corner shop to smuggle into Poisedon's Palace to strike him down. A good inspiration is Conan the Barbarian where he was fighting alien gods one day and looting towers for jewels another. But Planescape is far more urbane and modern. Feel free to insert everything from printing presses to message-stone viewers in people's homes showing trashy plays. It is also a place where there's always a bigger fish and no one necessarily will become the kind of movers and shakers they will in other lands. Player characters should be seeking money and solving murders at level 20 as much as they are at level 1. Power in Sigil is as much represented by charisma and money than brute force.

9:] The Blood War is always there

The Blood War is an opportunity for many possible adventure hooks but the chief appeal of it is a war that can affect everything and everyone in the Planes while also having the players have no real stake in it. Like Freddy versus Jason, whoever wins, everyone else loses. As such, players can interact with it from a purely self-interested point of view or treacherous one. Player characters who might normally be above petty scheming like paladins or clerics have a vested interest in screwing over anyone they make deals with in the Blood War. Assassinations, arms trafficking, espionage, desertion, rescue missions, and other stories are all capable of being told. But in the end, the best option is for the war to carry on forever. So why not make a little money off it? Or you can, you know, try to do a little good but where's the fun in that?

10:] The Lady of Pain is just one of many mysteries

One thing to understand about Sigil is it is very old and very mysterious. How old or how mysterious is left up to the DM but it could be anywhere from tens of thousands to billions of years old. Assuming time even flows in a straight line. Things like the death of Aoskar, the Lady of Pain, her Mazes, past Factions, dead Factols, and secret locations spread through a city that has infinite pocket dimensions. Remember that the history of Sigil can be whatever the DM wants and this will make a better story to fill in the vast gaps of the past.

11:] The Factions are a never-ending source of drama

One of the cooler elements of Planescape is the fact that traditional nobility doesn't exist in Sigil. Instead, the noble houses and merchant princes are replaced by people who share vague ideological goals. These people are as prone to being as selfish, power-hungry, and scheming over petty grievances as their Clueless Prime Material counterparts. While they may and do pursue their philosophic ends, they may also seek temporal power in Sigil for no other reason than powers sake. You may also find the kind of feuding that might drive an adventure like a Bleak Cabal member wanting to humiliate a Mind's Eye member. You can easily do everything from Romeo and Juliet to Game of Thrones.

There's a certain level of cynicism to be embraced about them as well. The Harmonium want to be Lawful Good paladins who bring about an age of peace and prosperity but they're authoritarian dicks who would laugh at the concept of democracy. The Revolutionary League want to be the anarchists who overthrow the bad corrupt system but they're completely disunited in their vision of what will come next. The Free League ARE anarchists who just want to live their life free from control but that doesn't really give much support. Nobody has the right idea and a statement of belief in Sigil can mean everything or nothing.

12:] Use your words over your fists, spells, or swords

Fights should break out but PCs should be aware that they don't necessarily know whether they can take whoever they fight so cleverness or communication is rewarded over brawn. A local street sweeper may be a 1st level Commoner or he might be a 20th level retired adventurer or a gold dragon in disguise. This has the benefit of allowing PCs to interact with people they might normally assume they're meant to throw down with. A conversation with Glasya, Daughter of Asmodeus, is completely possible even when the goal is to rob her boudoir of her makeup kit. Rewarding clever solutions and playing politics is very true to Planescape as well as its themes.

13:] The problems of two people don't mean a hill of beans in Sigil

In Dragonlance, you can defeat the Queen of Darkness and her minions. In the Forgotten Realms, you can defeat Bane's scheme to resurrect himself. In Planescape, you may cast down the Lich Queen of the Githyanki or prevent Orcus' resurrection but there will always be another demon or monster to take its place. Individuals may be rescued and survive but a sense of existentialism. In the infinity of the planes, there's always another war or god or evil plot. Keeping this mood inclines player characters to be cynical and jaded but perhaps even more devoted to recognizing little triumphs. At least in my group.

My Blog: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/

Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
7962 Posts

Posted - 08 Dec 2023 :  07:44:25  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
https://www.reddit.com/r/planescapesetting/comments/18d8ume/thirteen_tips_for_running_planescape/

[/Ayrik]
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Charles Phipps
Master of Realmslore

1419 Posts

Posted - 09 Dec 2023 :  07:00:06  Show Profile  Visit Charles Phipps's Homepage Send Charles Phipps a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yep. I posted it there too.

My Blog: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/
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Azar
Master of Realmslore

1259 Posts

Posted - 09 Dec 2023 :  19:43:50  Show Profile Send Azar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
5:] Don't trust Alignments

One thing that Planescape was criticized for in Second Edition was that a lot of the Good aligned characters didn't act particularly good (Rowan Darkwood being Chaotic Good) and a lot of the evil monsters weren't. This is more of a feature than a bug as Sigil as the center of the Plane of Neutrality almost requires you to be willing to look past the usual stereotypes of D&D. You can be good friends with demons who are bad but loyal, angels can be manipulative psychopaths justifying everything for the greater good, and elves can be racist snooty dirtbags (oh wait, that's just how they are in 90% of D&D campaigns).


The key reason why I love to mine PS for location information (outside of Sigil), but wouldn't want to trudge through the full sandbox. PS' comparatively eccentric moral and ethical underpinnings work better with a system that isn't centered around the classic struggle of good versus evil.

Stand with anybody that stands right. Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.

Earth names in the Realms are more common than you may think.
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Zeromaru X
Great Reader

Colombia
2433 Posts

Posted - 09 Dec 2023 :  22:52:58  Show Profile Send Zeromaru X a Private Message  Reply with Quote
So, alignments are useless even in the setting that is all about the Outer Planes, and therefore alignments. Figures...

Instead of seeking change, you prefer a void, merciless abyss of a world...
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Azar
Master of Realmslore

1259 Posts

Posted - 10 Dec 2023 :  13:30:49  Show Profile Send Azar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Zeromaru X

So, alignments are useless even in the setting that is all about the Outer Planes, and therefore alignments. Figures...



Bear in mind that Planescape is a product of the 90s; "darker and edgier" was the name of the game and anti-heroes were EXTREMELY popular. Practically everyone was thumbing their noses at classic fantasy and science-fiction conventions in addition to traditional good guys.

Stand with anybody that stands right. Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.

Earth names in the Realms are more common than you may think.
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Delnyn
Senior Scribe

USA
874 Posts

Posted - 10 Dec 2023 :  14:50:21  Show Profile Send Delnyn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The law vs. chaos conflict is evident in Planescape, even if good vs. evil is not as emphasized. The Blood War is a big deal in Planescape, so dismissing alignments is not quite correct.
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Azar
Master of Realmslore

1259 Posts

Posted - 10 Dec 2023 :  15:13:33  Show Profile Send Azar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Delnyn

The law vs. chaos conflict is evident in Planescape, even if good vs. evil is not as emphasized. The Blood War is a big deal in Planescape, so dismissing alignments is not quite correct.



It's jarring when a mortal Paladin - the purest embodiment of Lawful Good on the material planes - cannot so much as sneeze on the meek without losing their holy gifts while a Lawful Good Outsider - the purest embodiment before the gods - la Planescape can engage in "the ends justify the means" (e.g., killing scads of innocents for the "greater good") and not fall from their lofty heights.

Stand with anybody that stands right. Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.

Earth names in the Realms are more common than you may think.
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Delnyn
Senior Scribe

USA
874 Posts

Posted - 10 Dec 2023 :  16:05:08  Show Profile Send Delnyn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Azar

quote:
Originally posted by Delnyn

The law vs. chaos conflict is evident in Planescape, even if good vs. evil is not as emphasized. The Blood War is a big deal in Planescape, so dismissing alignments is not quite correct.



It's jarring when a mortal Paladin - the purest embodiment of Lawful Good on the material planes - cannot so much as sneeze on the meek without losing their holy gifts while a Lawful Good Outsider - the purest embodiment before the gods - la Planescape can engage in "the ends justify the means" (e.g., killing scads of innocents for the "greater good") and not fall from their lofty heights.



This is why I do not take Planescape too seriously. Your term was "jarring". My term is "illogical". As ZeromaruX mentioned in an earlier post, thoughts and beliefs matter on the Outer Planes. I would reverse your paladin and outsider cases. Zariel is far more representative of what happens to a lawful good outsider who messes around with "ends justify the means" ethics.

Edited by - Delnyn on 10 Dec 2023 16:06:18
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Azar
Master of Realmslore

1259 Posts

Posted - 11 Dec 2023 :  11:18:04  Show Profile Send Azar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Delnyn

quote:
Originally posted by Azar

quote:
Originally posted by Delnyn

The law vs. chaos conflict is evident in Planescape, even if good vs. evil is not as emphasized. The Blood War is a big deal in Planescape, so dismissing alignments is not quite correct.



It's jarring when a mortal Paladin - the purest embodiment of Lawful Good on the material planes - cannot so much as sneeze on the meek without losing their holy gifts while a Lawful Good Outsider - the purest embodiment before the gods - la Planescape can engage in "the ends justify the means" (e.g., killing scads of innocents for the "greater good") and not fall from their lofty heights.



This is why I do not take Planescape too seriously. Your term was "jarring". My term is "illogical". As ZeromaruX mentioned in an earlier post, thoughts and beliefs matter on the Outer Planes. I would reverse your paladin and outsider cases. Zariel is far more representative of what happens to a lawful good outsider who messes around with "ends justify the means" ethics.



Yes, of course you are correct. Outsiders are metaphysical concepts rendered tangible; not only should such rebellion against their true nature be impossible in the first place, but, even if they were to succeed, they would then either cease to exist or transform into a different sort of outsider. You can cheat an observer - for a time - but you cannot cheat the cosmos.

Stand with anybody that stands right. Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.

Earth names in the Realms are more common than you may think.
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Delnyn
Senior Scribe

USA
874 Posts

Posted - 11 Dec 2023 :  12:09:48  Show Profile Send Delnyn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Planescape has elements I do appreciate, not least of which is stopping murderhobos in their tracks.
"Knowledge is power" is another welcome element, with the distinction between the "chant" (not to be confused with Sigil "cant") and the "dark".
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Charles Phipps
Master of Realmslore

1419 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2023 :  07:10:03  Show Profile  Visit Charles Phipps's Homepage Send Charles Phipps a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The books never emphasized this but I think it's something that makes perfect sense.

Planescape emphasizes the beliefs of the planes are things that have an effect on the world around you and that a world can be corrupted by the people believing otherwise. The Harmonium's killing sprees and re-education camps on Arcadia resulted in an entire layer being transported to Mechanus for example. However, Sigil is the CENTER OF THE PLANE OF NEUTRALITY.

It's not "darker and edgier" to act like the fact Good and Evil aren't things that are absolutes there. It is a magnet to people who are weird, lost, and outcast as well as caught between extremes of good and evil. I feel like that by choosing to live in Sigil, you voluntarily agree to acknowledge that Good vs. Evil is not how these stories are going to be framed.

It's very much a punk setting ala SHADOW RUN or CYBERPUNK 2020 or even the World of Darkness. HOWEVER, it is one that makes sense given it's location.

My Blog: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/
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Delnyn
Senior Scribe

USA
874 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2023 :  08:16:52  Show Profile Send Delnyn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Charles Phipps

The books never emphasized this but I think it's something that makes perfect sense.

Planescape emphasizes the beliefs of the planes are things that have an effect on the world around you and that a world can be corrupted by the people believing otherwise. The Harmonium's killing sprees and re-education camps on Arcadia resulted in an entire layer being transported to Mechanus for example. However, Sigil is the CENTER OF THE PLANE OF NEUTRALITY.

It's not "darker and edgier" to act like the fact Good and Evil aren't things that are absolutes there. It is a magnet to people who are weird, lost, and outcast as well as caught between extremes of good and evil. I feel like that by choosing to live in Sigil, you voluntarily agree to acknowledge that Good vs. Evil is not how these stories are going to be framed.

It's very much a punk setting ala SHADOW RUN or CYBERPUNK 2020 or even the World of Darkness. HOWEVER, it is one that makes sense given it's location.



This still fails to address law vs. chaos and why the Blood War is such a big deal in Planescape. Alignments still matter until you can safely ignore law vs. chaos as well as good vs. evil.
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TBeholder
Great Reader

2360 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2023 :  08:56:56  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Azar


It's jarring when a mortal Paladin - the purest embodiment of Lawful Good on the material planes - cannot so much as sneeze on the meek without losing their holy gifts while a Lawful Good Outsider - the purest embodiment before the gods - � la Planescape can engage in "the ends justify the means" (e.g., killing scads of innocents for the "greater good") and not fall from their lofty heights.

Not always fall immediately, at least. And the priest of that paladin's patron lives by somewhat different rules.
This "embodiment" thing, by definition, must include possibility of a fall from grace / losing the path / etc, no? Because those do come with the territory.
The rest is down to where exactly the specific thresholds are in different cases.
quote:
Originally posted by Delnyn


This is why I do not take Planescape too seriously. Your term was "jarring". My term is "illogical".
Misuses of this word may make people believe you are a Trekkie.
quote:
As ZeromaruX mentioned in an earlier post, thoughts and beliefs matter on the Outer Planes.

And the celestial in question himself believes that while this particular behaviour is generally undesirable, it's not unacceptable at least in bad enough circumstances. And so do at least some other celestials... and many, many more mortals.

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch
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sleyvas
Skilled Spell Strategist

USA
11669 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2023 :  14:27:03  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
just to play devil's advocate for a second (because I totally get the argument of paladin versus outsider reactions)

The paladin was born in a place where they were given choice and free will and CHOSE to interpose these requirements upon themselves, and in return get rewarded with certain abilities. So, taking those abilities away.... should be easy

The outsider was created in some fashion (possibly born) and is being forced into a mold based on planar mechanics with incumbent abilities naturally bestowed upon them. But they should have at least some ability exert their own free will. However their abilities, since they are part of them, should be "harder" to strip.... but rather as some say, the "cosmos" should instead literally transform the outsider's intrinsic nature as a result as well as they leave their essential nature behind.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Charles Phipps
Master of Realmslore

1419 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2023 :  18:09:51  Show Profile  Visit Charles Phipps's Homepage Send Charles Phipps a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
This still fails to address law vs. chaos and why the Blood War is such a big deal in Planescape. Alignments still matter until you can safely ignore law vs. chaos as well as good vs. evil.


A lot of fans prefer to not give the artists much credit for high ideas but I admit to having a somewhat pretentious view of the artistic merit of D&D fiction, particularly Planescape.

The Blood War is Evil vs. Evil because it establishes war fundamentally is not a particularly noble or good pursuit. Why are the fiends of Law and Chaos warring eternally? Because that's what evil does. Good would not engage in a constant never-ending pointless conflict over ideological grounds unless innocents are involved.

As Tolkien would say, "War makes orcs of us all."

My Blog: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/
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Azar
Master of Realmslore

1259 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2023 :  20:11:45  Show Profile Send Azar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Planescape is a tonal mismatch with D&D and its starkly defined morality; that's my opinion, at least. However, I will happily continue to plunder its box sets for their ex-cee-lent material on the Outer Planes .

Stand with anybody that stands right. Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.

Earth names in the Realms are more common than you may think.
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ElfBane
Learned Scribe

USA
274 Posts

Posted - 14 Dec 2023 :  23:45:53  Show Profile Send ElfBane a Private Message  Reply with Quote
If "Evil" were to win a signicant victory over Good/Neutral, then what would result is that Evil organizations would start to quarrel and fight amongts each other. That is the Nature of Evil. That's why you see it in the Hells. That's why the Neutrals try to mitigate the struggle between Evil and Good, by creating the Balance. A VERY GOOD EXAMPLE of what can happen when one side gains dominance is what happened when Christianity triumhped in Western Europe... only to start fighting with each other over the Reformation.
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Charles Phipps
Master of Realmslore

1419 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2023 :  01:53:54  Show Profile  Visit Charles Phipps's Homepage Send Charles Phipps a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Planescape is a tonal mismatch with D&D and its starkly defined morality; that's my opinion, at least. However, I will happily continue to plunder its box sets for their ex-cee-lent material on the Outer Planes .


I'm not even sure that it's so much a tonal mismatch as the fact that it doesn't take the claim of GoodTM being preferable seriously, especially LAWFUL Good. Which is a fairly common view in D&D.

See Dragonlance.

Margaret Weis and Hickman used the Kingpriest of Istar to take a pot shot at the Religious Right and, well, good call.

Planescape just says, "Good intentions do not equal good results."

My Blog: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/

Edited by - Charles Phipps on 15 Dec 2023 01:55:19
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Azar
Master of Realmslore

1259 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2023 :  02:31:19  Show Profile Send Azar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Charles Phipps

[See Dragonlance.

Margaret Weis and Hickman used the Kingpriest of Istar to take a pot shot at the Religious Right and, well, good call.


Not a fan of Dragonlance and its "goodness poisoning" parable along with its dogmatic view on "the balance"; Good is cheapened when Good - once "overrepresented" - is always in danger of developing a nasty case of moral myopia (which results in Evil) yet Evil is always guaranteed to retain its vileness whether it is the underdog with naught but a shrine and a prayer or successfully getting the locomotives to arrive on schedule.

quote:
Originally posted by Charles Phipps

as the fact that it doesn't take the claim of GoodTM being preferable seriously, especially LAWFUL Good. Which is a fairly common view in D&D.


As the saying goes, "Even Neutral prefers Good neighbors."

Stand with anybody that stands right. Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.

Earth names in the Realms are more common than you may think.
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Charles Phipps
Master of Realmslore

1419 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2023 :  03:32:18  Show Profile  Visit Charles Phipps's Homepage Send Charles Phipps a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Also, to quote Meatloaf, "Good girls go to Heaven, bad girls go everywhere."

Which is why Team Dark Magic has Shar and Takhasis.

:)

My Blog: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/
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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
7962 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2023 :  03:34:30  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
The Outer Planes have been somewhat static and balanced for half of eternity.

All those archons and angels, planetars, guardinals, eladrins, and all the other celestials have held their own against the fiends for half of eternity.

Planescape posits that this is because the celestials are just as capable of being cruel, vicious, manipulative, oppressive, dangerous, unjust, vile, deceptive, and treacherous as their fiendish counterparts. And that the fiends can be compassionate, empathetic, selfless, honorable, generous, caring, gullible, and kind enough to be victimized by such heartless celestials.

It's not all LG-vs-CE. There are at least 15 other Outer Planar shades between, separated from their neighbours by only the most intangible, ephemeral, blurred, and shifting boundaries. Alignment is constantly defined by a character's beliefs and actions, not by what's written on a piece of paper.

[/Ayrik]

Edited by - Ayrik on 15 Dec 2023 03:36:55
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Charles Phipps
Master of Realmslore

1419 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2023 :  05:57:05  Show Profile  Visit Charles Phipps's Homepage Send Charles Phipps a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Planescape posits that this is because the celestials are just as capable of being cruel, vicious, manipulative, oppressive, dangerous, unjust, vile, deceptive, and treacherous as their fiendish counterparts. And that the fiends can be compassionate, empathetic, selfless, honorable, generous, caring, gullible, and kind enough to be victimized by such heartless celestials.



Planescape posits the opposite that Good has managed to survive in D&D where evil is explicitly far-far more powerful than good because Evil is fighting Evil.

Which is depressing but almost every setting of D&D has 15 evil races for every "good" one.

And while good people CAN be horrible because Good IntentionsTM are the determination of good versus evil (versus, say, selfishness or malice), it is not likely.

Basically, the difference between a LG Serial Murderer versus a CE one is the former has to be doing it to save the souls of his victims whiole the other is doing it for his own enjoyment.

Which is ****ed up but that's the point.

My Blog: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/

Edited by - Charles Phipps on 15 Dec 2023 05:58:42
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Delnyn
Senior Scribe

USA
874 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2023 :  10:03:48  Show Profile Send Delnyn a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I don't buy into Planescape's unstated premise of ascribing mortal (more particularly human!) psychology to Outer Planes denizens such as celestials and fiends. A paladin as a mortal of course can be cruel, deceptive or treacherous. Sure, they might lose their supernatural gifts until they atone, but they have agency to act as they do. Not so a celestials who does the same. Likewise, ur-priests cam be selfless and kind because of mortal agency. A fiend who does the same ceases to be a fiend or ceases to be anything.

I agree the concept of a LG serial murderer being messed up. A serial murderer is not interested in saving souls and ceases to be good if the being in question ever was good.
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sleyvas
Skilled Spell Strategist

USA
11669 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2023 :  13:48:19  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I would stress in this that nothing about outer planar beings should be a "light switch" .... they should be for the most part very driven by the alignment plane to which they are tied.... but just like WE can't agree on WHAT an alignment means... the very planes themselves are not "built on bedrock" and they are very much affected by changes in mortal belief. Oddly, in some ways, it may be viewed that these views may be changing wildly constantly... because mortal views often are generational.

What do I mean by that? Its been shown to some degree that in our own society that for a long time things were very cyclical between generations (i.e. you would have a very authoritarian generation, then one less so, then one who was very lax, then one who suffers, then a return to a authoritarians viewpoint .... don't quote me on that, as I am just thinking from memory about something an author was noting who was also noting how social media was now changing this cyclical nature to some degree). But if mortal views shape the outer planes, and as mortals die out, their souls go to the outer plane and maybe shape it, but the next generation has slightly different views.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Charles Phipps
Master of Realmslore

1419 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2023 :  23:31:41  Show Profile  Visit Charles Phipps's Homepage Send Charles Phipps a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
A serial murderer is not interested in saving souls and ceases to be good if the being in question ever was good.


I mean, they're insane but that won't change their alignment.

Gross ignorance and delusion should affect alignments.

My Blog: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/

Edited by - Charles Phipps on 15 Dec 2023 23:32:05
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Azar
Master of Realmslore

1259 Posts

Posted - 15 Dec 2023 :  23:47:47  Show Profile Send Azar a Private Message  Reply with Quote
"From my point of view, the Paladins are evil!"

Stand with anybody that stands right. Stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong.

Earth names in the Realms are more common than you may think.
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Charles Phipps
Master of Realmslore

1419 Posts

Posted - 16 Dec 2023 :  01:25:40  Show Profile  Visit Charles Phipps's Homepage Send Charles Phipps a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I mean, Anakin is just lying.

But interestingly, I always like to note that I do believe angels and demons should have SOME free will.

Fallen Angels and Rising fiends.

But they're INCREDIBLY rare.

My Blog: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/
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TBeholder
Great Reader

2360 Posts

Posted - 16 Dec 2023 :  04:19:16  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Azar

Planescape is a tonal mismatch with D&D and its starkly defined morality; that's my opinion, at least. However, I will happily continue to plunder its box sets for their ex-cee-lent material on the Outer Planes .

Depends on what you call "D&D". I mean, could you give me a brief summary of "starkly defined morality" in Alphatia vs Thyatis conflict, for example?
Never mind most of Birthright (see also the playtest notes).
quote:
Originally posted by Charles Phipps


Margaret Weis and Hickman used the Kingpriest of Istar to take a pot shot at the Religious Right and, well, good call.

I find this statement puzzling. How so?

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch
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Ayrik
Great Reader

Canada
7962 Posts

Posted - 16 Dec 2023 :  04:28:28  Show Profile Send Ayrik a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Charles Phipps

... I do believe angels and demons should have SOME free will.

Fallen Angels and Rising fiends.

But they're INCREDIBLY rare.

They all have free will. Insofar as they have agency and volition, sentience, sapience, they all choose to follow their alignment metrics.

It's the ones who choose different paths who are incredibly rare.

But in an essentially infinite cosmos there's enough celestials and fiends and unusual circumstances that "incredibly rare" things must occur with some frequency. It would be more unusual for no exceptions to exist, such a thing would absolutely prove these beings lack free will.

[/Ayrik]
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Charles Phipps
Master of Realmslore

1419 Posts

Posted - 16 Dec 2023 :  10:06:08  Show Profile  Visit Charles Phipps's Homepage Send Charles Phipps a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Ayrik

quote:
Originally posted by Charles Phipps

... I do believe angels and demons should have SOME free will.

Fallen Angels and Rising fiends.

But they're INCREDIBLY rare.

They all have free will. Insofar as they have agency and volition, sentience, sapience, they all choose to follow their alignment metrics.

It's the ones who choose different paths who are incredibly rare.

But in an essentially infinite cosmos there's enough celestials and fiends and unusual circumstances that "incredibly rare" things must occur with some frequency. It would be more unusual for no exceptions to exist, such a thing would absolutely prove these beings lack free will.



Oddly, as part of my handling of Sigil being the Center of All Neutrality, I made it a rule in my game that the only place that Demons and Angels can change without Celestial assistance is there. It is the center of all free will.

Zariel in the Nine Hells had to fall with Asmodeus' help after he broke their faith in anything but violence.

My Blog: http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/
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