Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P: Planescape ~

The first "proper" -- i.e. not picking up the pieces after our first DM had to contend with a new addition to his family, but a fresh start -- campaign I ever ran was a Planescape campaign, having snapped up the original boxed set pretty much when it first arrived. We did awesome, awful things, both myself and my players (including capturing rogue animal spirits, attacking Robocop and crushing fiends under super-strength walls of ice), and we enjoyed every minute of it.

So naturally there were many more Planescape campaigns ;3

I have an immense attachment to this one setting, it is very true. It combines everything I find fascinating in a D&D game -- steampunk, elementalisms, dimensional travel, poking around oddities like god-corpses, and stomping on fiendish types when not inadvertently aiding them -- in one magnificent package so long as you look in the right place. And then there's Sigil, which was like the answer to my grimy pseudo-Victorian-evoking wishes. (favorite ward? Lower. favorite faction headquarters? the Great Foundry.) The answer to my wishes, and oh-so-conveniently riddled with portals that came and went and spun interesting encounters just from working to get the right key on occasion.

(would you like some politicking mixed in with your planar stomping? Sigil will tackle that just nicely.)

And yes, I bloody well called and call them fiends when I'm working with Planescape, because I like the tossing-off of the slim shreds of real-world trappings that cling when I use "demon" or "devil" or whatever. It might work passably in a Prime campaign but out in the planar reaches I like to ditch that, an it please ye -- ditto with "angel", though PS never inflicted that on me thanks be to the gods.

The first- and second-wave of PS online was right up my alley and then the heyday hit. I still have fond memories of mimir.net -- I had a scant article or two on there, as "Kristias Fireflight" -- and the old Planescape-L. But there's a certain dividing-point in the evolution of Planescape's fandom, prompted a little by the ending of the line but a little more by the advent of something very specific: Planescape: Torment.

Torment's an interesting game, there's no doubt about it. But it conveys (for me, at least) a rather different aesthetic and "feel" to the entire campaign setting, one rather grating and at odds with the original. Sure the line evolved over the years, but under the accumulation we do not speak of Faction War one could still see the original PS box and In The Cage. Torment brought a different vibe, and as time ticked by the Torment-influenced people became the dominant voices. This ebbed away again eventually and left an odd hybrid in its wake; the Planescape 3e project being likely the greatest single example.

Me, I never was one for Torment much and the post-2e iterations of Sigil and various Planescape trappings in 3e and the like never quite cut it even when I liked chunks. But I still have my PS collection, so what odds? I can still venture out and plunder the Plane of Mineral and map dead gods whenever I please.


Anthony said...

What do you feel are the differences between the 'generations'? I played the poo out of Torment, but never ran a Planscape game in any edition, rather I always ran homebrews at the table.

taichara said...


It's a hard thing to actively describe. Post-Torment, metaphorically speaking, "feels" like something rougher. Sigil and its environs (or how they were perceived) lost the faintly Dickensian touch and seemed to have picked up a more blunt approach and attitude along the way.

I suppose it could be summed up that what I saw and took part in pre-Torment ... hm, feels/felt like it had a "lighter touch"? Not light as in humour or hearts-and-flowers, mind you.

Bleh, hard to explain ...

It's not helped, I suppose, by something that is not at all actually related to Torment; but that the Planescape 3e team, to be frank and in my opinion, really made the entire thing seem quite mundane. There was a certain rote feel to the work, and their descriptions of Sigil focused on guilds and suchsort -- it seemed more like Waterdeep-on-the-planes.

But as more and more players had less or no access to anything but the 3e adaptations, a certain shift was likely unavoidable. And of course the PS3e writers would have wanted to put their own stamp on their work, adaptation or no.

thekelvingreen said...

This is interesting. I really only know Planescape by reputation as I wasn't interested in D&D during its lifetime, but I appreciated the art style that I saw in reviews and adverts.

Torment was something that I'd often heard was a work of greatness, but I have only started playing it in the last few weeks.

As such, it's interesting to read this post now.

Stacy said...

Interesting. I'm currently in the middle of a Torment game* (just picked up Annah and headed to the Alley of Dangerous Angles), but I've never read up on the setting. Now I know to keep an eye out for pre- and post-Torment differences.

*My favorite video game ever. My husband refers to it as playing, "Updated My Journal", after the phrase so often spoken by the Nameless One, heh.