Summary: Campaign setting, published in 1994, for the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, drawing extensively on themes of ideology, religion, philosophy and mythology. The locations are drawn from the first edition Manual of the Planes (1987), which described the standard cosmology of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons universe.

Planescape expanded the basic material from the Manual, which had focussed on places such as the Nine Hells and Twin Paradises. The city of Sigil, an Amber-like location said to be the heart of 'multiverse', was introduced, along with fifteen philosophical and political factions. Unlike other D&D settings in which the main spheres of player character activity are likely to be combat, regional politics and detective work, Planescape encourages the players to concentrate on major issues such as belief and morality. The clear moral compass of the alignment system, which underlies the cosmology of the Manual, is subverted by clear demonstrations that what is good to one faction will most definitely seem evil to another. Many players of the setting began to question (with justification) why mortal characters were assigned alignments at all any more.

The Factions themselves are described here, in a write-up which is closely derivative of the Planewalker's Handbook. The Outer Planes and Inner Planes each have their own nodes, too. All these 'planes' are separate (usually infinite) regions of reality in which different laws of nature apply. The Outer Planes are regions defined by prevailing moral and emotional characteristics - such as The Gray Waste which is dominated by apathy and the Neutral Evil alignment, or Bytopia where the prominent mood is of hard work and an alignment between Lawful Good and Neutral Good. The Inner Planes, on the other hand, are characterised by their physical characteristics. The Elemental Plane of Fire is simply a realm filled with fire, burning things, and creatures made of or closely associated with fire. The Astral Plane, Ethereal Plane and Prime Plane each have special characteristics of their own.

The inhabitants of the Planescape multiverse are commonly divided into primes (folk from regular AD&D worlds on the Prime Plane); planars (characters native to the other - usually outer - planes); powers (legendary gods); proxies (servants of these gods); and petitioners (spirits of the dead, seeking rest in a suitable area of existence).

  • Planescape accessories describing the Multiverse at large:
    • Planescape Campaign Setting - the box which defines the setting
    • Planewalker's Handbook - a useful single-volume guide to the setting, with many interesting things (like character kits, spells and equipment lists) not found elsewhere in the published material
    • On Hallowed Ground - a huge sourcebook on the subject of gods and religion
    • Monstrous Compendium Planescape Appendix - three separate volumes of monsters native to the setting. Volume one largely reprinted the monsters found in MC8, the original Outer Planes appendix, which were in turn somewhat bowdlerized versions of the critters in the old first edition Monster Manual series, known as demons, devils, etc. Volume two added many original, never-before-seen monsters, and volume three was a mix of old and new, but with a focus on the Inner Planes.
    • Faces of Evil: the Fiends - issued by popular demand and with the collaboration of the Planescape internet mailing list, this book described the loathsome natures of the denizens of the Lower Planes. There was some demand for a corresponding book on the celestials, which was never fulfilled. Remember kids - evil sells!
  • Accessories dealing with specific locations:
    • In The Cage: A Guide to Sigil - by Rick Swan. This volume describes the city at the heart of the setting in some detail. I found this supplement unsatisfying by the usual high standards of the series.
    • The Factol's Manifesto - a guide to the beliefs, personalities and home territories of the setting's resident philosopher-politicians. A better guide to Sigil than the Guide to Sigil was.
    • Planes of Chaos - a boxed set describing the Outer Planes of Arborea, Ysgard, Limbo, Pandemonium and the Abyss. First instalment of an excellent series. Although boxed, the set contains only one book of locations, with all the information in it. This series of sets had formatting tailored to the subject matter.
    • Planes of Conflict - boxed set on Bytopia, Elysium, the Beastlands, Gehenna, the Gray Waste and Carceri - but not the Outlands. This set contains two books of locations - one for good and one for evil.
    • Planes of Law - boxed set on Baator, Acheron, Mechanus, Arcadia and Mount Celestia. Keeping with the organisational pattern for this series, the set contained a separate booklet for the locations of each plane.
    • A Player's Primer to the Outlands - small boxed set containing only a short booklet on the remaining Outer Plane, and a CD with the recorded sounds of a 'mimir' - a kind of planewalker's palmtop - describing the locations in the book. The recording added no new material, and the large number of tracks on the CD confused many older hi-fi systems.
    • The Inner Planes - not a boxed set at all, but simply a large book describing the many Inner Planes. As a greater proportion of the Inner Planes are totally unfriendly to normal life forms than other parts of the multiverse, some entries are necessarily short.
    • A Guide to the Astral Plane and A Guide to the Ethereal Plane do exactly what they say on their covers, being highly inventive guidebooks to the often overlooked 'transitive' planes lying between the main areas of interest in the setting.
    • Hellbound: the Blood War - a truly gruesome boxed set on the everlasting war between the Tanar'ri and Baatezu fiends, including an adventure which was so unfair many DMs professed they wouldn't run it, and a separate book of illustrations whose cover - apparently a photograph of a melted humanoid face - was widely regarded as the nastiest TSR/Wizards of the Coast had ever used.

Old WU:

Planescape is a campaign setting for TSR's AD&D. It deals with metaphysics, morality, cosmology, demons and wierd aliens, rather than the more usual dungeons and dragons. It also features tieflings and aasimar, genasi and bariaurs, and has a few nice spinoffs in the Forgotten Realms setting, as well as the computer game Planescape Torment.

The game world is divided into:

< >The Prime Plane, which is the location for the Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Dragonlance and Greyhawk settings.

< >The Inner Planes, which are dominated by the classical elements of earth, air, fire and water, and their combinations, along with positive and negative energy. The Ravenloft gothic horror setting is located on the Demiplane of Dread, which is an Inner Plane.

< >The Outer Planes, the main theatre of operations in the setting, which are based on moral, ethical and cultural emphases.

< >Sigil, the city of the Lady of Pain, which is the gateway to all other places.
Planescape is a series of novels, an RPG and a computer game based on the concept of the Multiverse, the idea of multiple universes, and owes a lot to the work of Michael Moorcock.

Planescape has a strong focus on personal philosophy. It's central focus is that belief creates reality in a very real way, a fact that forces the players to consider the philosophical and religious stances of their characters beyond the "he likes bashing things but he's a nice bloke realy...he's Chaotic Good" level, something that few other RPGs successfuly do (respectful nod to Mage the Ascension).

As a direct result of the very physicly important nature of Belief in the Outer Planes the central organisations that the PCs are forced to deal with are not theives guilds or Megacorps, but what are essentially guilds of philosophers; organisations which assist and promote those with similar views on the nature of the multiverse. Descriptions of the Fations as they are called can be found here. A glossary of Planescape terms and slang is available here.

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