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Thread: Planescape lore

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    Pixie in the Playground
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    Default Planescape lore

    Hello everyone.
    First, I'm sorry if this is the wrong section for this kind of question,but it's not easy to browse such a large forum via mobile.
    Second, I have often read stuff on these pages through the years but I have never felt the need to join you, until today. What I know is that many of you are very competent when it comes D&D so I hope you can help me, or at least give me one or two answers to a problem I've been dealing with since last year.
    Both my boyfriend and I are fan of the Planescape setting, although I cannot say I have ever appreciated D&D itself. I played it because I had to, sort of. It all started when I played a Ultima Online shard with Planescape as setting, so you can see why I'm not into the mechanics of the d20. A couple of years ago I moved to a play by chat, found someone who had the same view as mine on roleplaying: more like a book and less like a combat simulator. Through the time, my bf also understood he doesn't like much the d20, so he started to customize the mechanics and the setting of Planescape, according to them.
    Thing is, that he started to notice flaws literally everywhere. Now I admit, he is kind of a fussy person sometimes, but his questions aren't illogical or not legitimate.
    Here a few examples: if the Xaositects don't keep a behaviour for very long, how is it possible that Quake manages the Quake's Place? Why are the Harmonium afraid to enter the Hive? What forbids them to enter it with some patrols? Why does the Lady of Pain allow the Signers who want to resurrect Aoskar to stay in Sigil? Why there are only a few lines about Ktll? How can I play there if I know nothing about the place?
    As I said, these are only a few examples. None of the answers to these questions are necessary (since the DM can simply change those facts), but we wonder... Why? Why make up a lore that you destroy a few pages ahead? Why the constant contradiction? Why the lack of information when information is needed? We don't understand. Is it just bad writing? It is just a collection of hints that you can use and misuse as you like? Planescape could be the best setting, imho, if only they had used more time to define the details. I understand that most of the players or the DMS just go with what's written and don't ask for much more,but those who want to play in a more coherent way, a more... Book-like way, if you please, what do they do? Are they known in a specific way? Is ours a relatively common problem?
    Granted that probably we should just give up instead (my bf actually did a couple of days ago), what do you think?

    I want it to be clear that I'm not against D&D, I just don't like it. If you do and you're happy with your adventures, that's good. I'm not here to start a flame or anything.
    Thank you for your time and sorry for any mistakes.
    Last edited by Luinmir; 2019-09-27 at 08:25 AM. Reason: Grammar

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Planescape lore

    Quote Originally Posted by Luinmir View Post

    Here a few examples: if the Xaositects don't keep a behaviour for very long, how is it possible that Quake manages the Quake's Place?
    we're talking generalities vs. specifics. It is impossible to be 100% new and different all the time. Even the Chaosmen have some traits that stick with them. If nothing else, the necessities of biology are to a large degree fixed. Look at Limbo; the slaadi are supposedly embodiments of chaos but are rigidly divided into types and groups with fixed power sets. Not to mention that most Xaositects are Namers, and Namers tend to be lowest and least understanding of their adopted philosophy. Don't expect most low-level perfectly exemplify their beliefs.
    Quake's place is probably run by one of those people who likes to radically redesign the interior and the concept of his place on a regular basis. One day it's a grotty pub with beer stains an inch thick, some time later it's a spotless yuppie bar, later it's an underground sex dungeon/bar, still later it's a concept bar (as in it serves concepts), etc. Possibly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Luinmir View Post
    Why are the Harmonium afraid to enter the Hive? What forbids them to enter it with some patrols? .
    The Hive is the Bad Part of Town, and no one likes the Hardheads. Going in there is asking for trouble. Sure, they could ramp up patrols and send heavily armed squads in, but that just makes things worse. Much better to clean up the rest of the Cage before they get started on the Hive (of scum and villainy).


    Quote Originally Posted by Luinmir View Post
    Why does the Lady of Pain allow the Signers who want to resurrect Aoskar to stay in Sigil?
    The Lady is inscrutable. There are always people plotting and planning and thinking how to topple her; no point in taking out every one. Perhaps it takes a while for her to notice the smaller things, perhaps she's interested to see how far they get before she steps in, perhaps the lawn needed herring that day.



    Quote Originally Posted by Luinmir View Post
    Why there are only a few lines about Ktll? How can I play there if I know nothing about the place?
    There's a limited amount of space in which to write about a very big setting. The planes are big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. You may think it's a long way down to the chemist's but that's just peanuts compared to the planes.
    Much of the design philosophy is to just toss out a few seeds for the GM to latch on to and write their own stuff. Much better to fire people's imaginations with hints and teasers than to waste space on detailed travelogues.



    Quote Originally Posted by Luinmir View Post

    Why? Why make up a lore that you destroy a few pages ahead? Why the constant contradiction? Why the lack of information when information is needed? We don't understand. Is it just bad writing? It is just a collection of hints that you can use and misuse as you like?
    Answering these in order:
    Because.

    Is it really destroyed or merely incomplete? Hard rules are often not so hard in Planescape. The things you mentioned weren't actually internal contradictions, just incorrect interpretations and expectations on your part.

    Possibly because the writer(s) didn't look at other people's work, but more likely because having different ideas about what is and why and how it is is more interesting than a flat statement. Plus in the planes people rarely agree on important things so there is no correct answer, just different viewpoints and beliefs, and belief is power, and contradictory belief is daily fare.

    Again, there is a limited amount of space to use, so the designers painted with a broad brush and let GMs fill in the details. Otherwise you could conceivably end up with a very detailed look at e.g. Sigil but learn bugger all about anywhere else in the Multiverse. While the Cage is a fascinating place, there is more to PS than it. A LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOT more.

    Yes.



    Quote Originally Posted by Luinmir View Post

    Planescape could be the best setting, imho, if only they had used more time to define the details. I understand that most of the players or the DMS just go with what's written and don't ask for much more,but those who want to play in a more coherent way, a more... Book-like way, if you please, what do they do?
    Economics doesn't let you do everything you want, sadly. TSR was bleeding badly for years and PS, for all its coolness, couldn't save it. PS was canceled and it was never big enough that WotC considered reviving it when they took over.
    Fan communities are the way to go. PS had a very productive and dedicated fan community for years, but I've fallen out of it, so I don't know it it's as big as it used to be. Either way there were many good sites with lots of cool material.



    Quote Originally Posted by Luinmir View Post

    Is ours a relatively common problem?
    Which problem?
    that you think there are problematic issues in the material given? Not everyone will agree with you, not everyone will disagree with you.

    that you think there isn't enough material?
    Nigh universal among PS fans, I should think. I have yet to meet a fan of a setting that isn't interested in seeing more of it.

    That you feel you can't play with what is there?
    Probably not. Plenty of people love playing and writing about it.
    PS was always about mystery and exploration and a sense of wonder, and part of this is letting GMs let their own imaginations soar. Fill in the details, create fantastic new vistas, invent new secrets and mysteries, just be creative.


    Quote Originally Posted by Luinmir View Post
    Granted that probably we should just give up instead (my bf actually did a couple of days ago), what do you think?
    Give up? Why? I doubt you two are so unimaginative that you cannot think of something. Take inspiration from Planescape! Look at something that you think is promising but lacking and fill in the details yourselves.
    Don't be bound by what other people have written, write your own stuff.
    Last edited by BWR; 2019-09-27 at 09:37 AM.

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    Default Re: Planescape lore

    Yes, I know that it is in the 3.5 forum, but I strongly recommend taking a look in Afroakuma's Lore thread VII (and the earlier versions) - he is incredibly knowledgeable and the threads really focus on Planescape lore.
    Just don't ask about the Far Realm (people keep trying to make sense of it which is just wrong).
    Last edited by Khedrac; 2019-09-27 at 03:31 PM.

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    Default Re: Planescape lore

    I think the issues you're running up against is that Planescape is 1) a meta-setting that links all of AD&D Second Edition settings together so is intentionally vague about some things and 2) was only actually produced for a relatively short period of time without a limited number of ancillary products beyond the game line that expanded that lore with details. If you compare Planescape to Forgotten Realms lore its very, very light on details. That is both intentional and inadvertent in that the books are meant to provide a framework of a setting and mechanical rules to play there, and inadvertent because there isn't the breadth of extra products like novels that build on that framework.

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    Default Re: Planescape lore

    Thank you very much for your replies.
    The problem I mentioned is wanting more details to play, but it seems that you all agree on considering the settings as a bunch of hints rather than something to play by the book. We have rather the opposite view, since basically we don't need to spend money for hints and for being "allowed to" use our imagination. We could make it already, d&d or not.
    Anyway, we were actually writing down all the details, but since, as you said, the multiverse is a lot more than just sigil, it was going to be a draining task. After six months we hadn't done much more than 30%, and we were (and are) tired. I'm more on the "I fix what I use accordingly to my needs" side, while my boyfriend is more "everything must be very good if not perfect, in order to have little mistakes while playing". We had a fair amount of fightings because of D&D, and considering we usually don't fight, that's the main reason why don't think it's worth it.

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    Default Re: Planescape lore

    Quote Originally Posted by Luinmir View Post
    The problem I mentioned is wanting more details to play, but it seems that you all agree on considering the settings as a bunch of hints rather than something to play by the book. We have rather the opposite view, since basically we don't need to spend money for hints and for being "allowed to" use our imagination.
    It's less 'being allowed' to use your imagination and more being inspired. I appreciate this type of setting writing. I find making things up from scratch a lot harder than building on a cool idea that someone else gives me, and suspect I'm not alone in this regard. Sure, I love seeing detailed settings with every minute issue addressed, but I also like having a ton of hints and ideas I can expand upon,

    Quote Originally Posted by Luinmir View Post
    Anyway, we were actually writing down all the details, but since, as you said, the multiverse is a lot more than just sigil, it was going to be a draining task. After six months we hadn't done much more than 30%, and we were (and are) tired. I'm more on the "I fix what I use accordingly to my needs" side, while my boyfriend is more "everything must be very good if not perfect, in order to have little mistakes while playing". We had a fair amount of fightings because of D&D, and considering we usually don't fight, that's the main reason why don't think it's worth it.
    I'm not quite sure I understand why you need to write down all the details.

    But if you want detailed settings, I would suggest something like Legend of the 5 Rings, for a small, detailed and comprehensive setting. If possible, look for 1e material which is the most flavorful. Later editions are a bit more egalitarian and tame, but less self-contradictory. Mechanically, 4e is probably best (even if it is not my favorite).
    Sadly, the current edition is by FFG, and the system sucks and the setting is rewritten, so you have to decide between ease of access or better mechanics and writing.

    As for other D&D settings that are imaginative and bonkers, you can try Spelljammer, which probably manages to be even less coordinated than Planescape.
    For detailed stuff, Forgotten Realms is well explored and popular.
    My personal favorite is (always vying with Planescape for top spot) Mystara, which was initially a hodgepodge kitchen sink setting that, through the work of awesome writers and decades of dedicated fans, is immensely detailed, full of hidden awesomeness and somehow (mostly) coherent. Fans even detail population migrations, language families and development, and write 10+ pages on demographics of areas.
    Last edited by BWR; 2019-09-29 at 11:22 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BWR View Post
    we're talking generalities vs. specifics. It is impossible to be 100% new and different all the time. Even the Chaosmen have some traits that stick with them. If nothing else, the necessities of biology are to a large degree fixed. Look at Limbo; the slaadi are supposedly embodiments of chaos but are rigidly divided into types and groups with fixed power sets. Not to mention that most Xaositects are Namers, and Namers tend to be lowest and least understanding of their adopted philosophy. Don't expect most low-level perfectly exemplify their beliefs.
    Quake's place is probably run by one of those people who likes to radically redesign the interior and the concept of his place on a regular basis. One day it's a grotty pub with beer stains an inch thick, some time later it's a spotless yuppie bar, later it's an underground sex dungeon/bar, still later it's a concept bar (as in it serves concepts), etc. Possibly.



    The Hive is the Bad Part of Town, and no one likes the Hardheads. Going in there is asking for trouble. Sure, they could ramp up patrols and send heavily armed squads in, but that just makes things worse. Much better to clean up the rest of the Cage before they get started on the Hive (of scum and villainy).



    The Lady is inscrutable. There are always people plotting and planning and thinking how to topple her; no point in taking out every one. Perhaps it takes a while for her to notice the smaller things, perhaps she's interested to see how far they get before she steps in, perhaps the lawn needed herring that day.





    There's a limited amount of space in which to write about a very big setting. The planes are big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. You may think it's a long way down to the chemist's but that's just peanuts compared to the planes.
    Much of the design philosophy is to just toss out a few seeds for the GM to latch on to and write their own stuff. Much better to fire people's imaginations with hints and teasers than to waste space on detailed travelogues.





    Answering these in order:
    Because.

    Is it really destroyed or merely incomplete? Hard rules are often not so hard in Planescape. The things you mentioned weren't actually internal contradictions, just incorrect interpretations and expectations on your part.

    Possibly because the writer(s) didn't look at other people's work, but more likely because having different ideas about what is and why and how it is is more interesting than a flat statement. Plus in the planes people rarely agree on important things so there is no correct answer, just different viewpoints and beliefs, and belief is power, and contradictory belief is daily fare.

    Again, there is a limited amount of space to use, so the designers painted with a broad brush and let GMs fill in the details. Otherwise you could conceivably end up with a very detailed look at e.g. Sigil but learn bugger all about anywhere else in the Multiverse. While the Cage is a fascinating place, there is more to PS than it. A LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOOOOOOOT more.

    Yes.





    Economics doesn't let you do everything you want, sadly. TSR was bleeding badly for years and PS, for all its coolness, couldn't save it. PS was canceled and it was never big enough that WotC considered reviving it when they took over.
    Fan communities are the way to go. PS had a very productive and dedicated fan community for years, but I've fallen out of it, so I don't know it it's as big as it used to be. Either way there were many good sites with lots of cool material.





    Which problem?
    that you think there are problematic issues in the material given? Not everyone will agree with you, not everyone will disagree with you.

    that you think there isn't enough material?
    Nigh universal among PS fans, I should think. I have yet to meet a fan of a setting that isn't interested in seeing more of it.

    That you feel you can't play with what is there?
    Probably not. Plenty of people love playing and writing about it.
    PS was always about mystery and exploration and a sense of wonder, and part of this is letting GMs let their own imaginations soar. Fill in the details, create fantastic new vistas, invent new secrets and mysteries, just be creative.




    Give up? Why? I doubt you two are so unimaginative that you cannot think of something. Take inspiration from Planescape! Look at something that you think is promising but lacking and fill in the details yourselves.
    Don't be bound by what other people have written, write your own stuff.
    What a great and inspiring post. Thanks, BWR.

    Speaking of PS lore.. what are the cool bits of lore you like in the setting?

    I like the Us, the cranium rat gestalt that inhabit Sigil sewers. Anyone know how it was created ? (is there even a canon for this?)
    Last edited by Ventruenox; 2019-10-04 at 02:43 PM.

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    Default Re: Planescape lore

    Quote Originally Posted by Luinmir View Post
    Why? Why make up a lore that you destroy a few pages ahead? Why the constant contradiction? Why the lack of information when information is needed?
    I know you have your answer already, but I wanted to point out that the apparent contradictions are to be expected in any city as vast and old and intricate as Sigil. You would get similar conflicting stories if you read a collection of impressions people have written about New York City or London.

    Cataloguing every little detail is impossible because it's never the same city from minute to minute. Travelers come and go from infinite potential destinations - traders and craftsmen, criminals and refugees, kings and warlords, angels and demons, parasites and pets. The important players are constantly aging out, retiring, dying, being imprisoned, to be replaced by new blood, new ideas, new struggles. The Lady of Pain can even alter the architecture.

    Sigil is whatever you want it to be in your game. The campaign guide and supplements are guidelines to help you get there. And, to be honest, this is true of all game settings on the market.

    I hope you give Planescape a chance. I've run some very fun games set there!

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    Default Re: Planescape lore

    Also don't try to map too much detail to a setting - that way lies madness. Build what you need when it becomes relevant. A lot of Planescape lore is considered in character if I recall correctly - so it's quite possible that it's just outright wrong in your game.

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    For me, Planescape is Sigil: the scheming factions, the portals and it's improbable keys, the weirdness of it's citizens, the alien geometries of it's architecture (and the Lady's spikes everywhere), the cynical Cant of the locals. If you're not using Sigil, you're not really playing Planescape, IMO.

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    A lot good has already been offered advicewise.

    Let me second L5R, especially st Edition, as a very well made (if tastewise special) finished" high Detail Setting.

    Also you could try DSA/Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye outside Germany), which is in parts insanely detailed (so much so that it becomes a weakness in many ways^^) fluff and Mapwise, and has been so for much longer than 10 years.
    A neutron walks into a bar and says, “How much for a beer?” The bartender says, “For you? No charge.”


    Later: An atom walks into a bar an asks the bartender “Have you seen an electron? I left it in here last night.” The bartender says, “Are you sure?” The atom says, “I’m positive.”

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    Default Re: Planescape lore

    More than any other setting (or part of a setting), Sigil is the people that inhabit it. So if you can find it, try to find the 2e AD&D supplement "Uncaged: Faces of Sigil". It details a number of extremely interesting NPCs and a lot of plot that ties them together that can also help give you structure to your campaign. You'll need to restat them for whatever version of D&D you are playing. (The aforementioned "The Us" are/is among the NPCs detailed in it, but it has other delightful people like Shemeshka the Marauder, the King of the Cross-Trade, or Fell, a defrocked Dabus).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Corneel View Post
    So if you can find it, try to find...
    One of the nice things about drivethrurpg is that they have pdfs of all the old D&D sourcebooks. They aren't hard to find.

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