Greyhawk: Return to the Classic
As its name suggests, the setting crosses and comprises the numerous planes of existence, encompassing an entire cosmology called the Great Wheel, it connects the worlds of the multiverse, linking them via inter-dimensional magical portals.
Planescape consists of a number of planes, which can be divided into the following regions:
- The Inner Planes (representing planes of elemental nature, such as Water, or Earth, or Fire, or Air, as well as the positive and negative energy planes)
- The Ethereal Plane
- The Prime Material Plane
- The Astral Plane
- The Outer Planes (representing alignments and the primary domains of the various deities)
Sigil the “City of Doors”, is located atop the Spire in the Outlands. It has the shape of a torus; the city itself is located on the inner surface of the ring. There is no sky, simply an all-pervasive light that waxes and wanes to create day and night. Sigil cannot be entered or exited save via portals; although this makes it quite safe from any would-be invader, it also makes it a prison of sorts for those not possessing a portal key. Thus, many call Sigil “The Bird Cage” or “The Cage”. Though Sigil is commonly held to be located “at the center of the planes” (where it is positioned atop the infinitely tall Spire), some argue that this is impossible since the planes are infinite in all dimensions, and therefore there can never truly be a center to any of them, let alone all of them; thus, Sigil is of no special importance. Curiously, from the Outlands, one can see Sigil atop the supposedly infinite Spire. The Lady of Pain is the protector of the city of Sigil she is also known as Her Serenity, for the permanently vacant expression on her face, The Bladed Queen, or simply The Lady. She is only a lady insofar as she is characterized as female in her countenance.
(“Defiers”, “The Lost”), who deny not only the gods’ right to pass judgment over mortals, but their very divinity. They claim that the gods (whom they call “powers”) are powerful but have limits and do not deserve worship. Their headquarters in Sigil is the Shattered Temple, the former temple of the dead god Aoskar. The Athar are broadly derived from real-world atheists, agnostics, and Deists.
- Believers of the Source
(“Godsmen”), who believe that each life is a test, and that every person has the potential to become a god. Their headquarters is the Great Foundry, symbolizing their belief that the multiverse constantly forges and refines all beings. Shares many parallels with Hindu and Buddhism. However, the ultimate goal is not Nirvana but apotheosis, making it a religion of the left-hand path; therefore a much closer analogue is that of LaVeyan Satanism.
- Bleak Cabal
(“Bleakers”, “Madmen”), who deny that any belief system has any merit; as they see it, the universe has physical rules, but no metaphysical or philosophical ones, therefore any meaning in life must come from within. Their headquarters is the insane asylum of Sigil, called the Gatehouse. They are derived from real-life existentialists and nihilists.
(“Sinkers”), who believe in the sanctity and inevitability of entropy. They see the decay and destruction of the universe as necessary; for once it is destroyed all imperfections will be gone with it, paving the way for a perfect new world. Their headquarters is Sigil’s Armory, where they forge weapons as tools of destruction.
(“The Dead”) believe that both life and death are false states of existence, that there is a state of True Death which can only be accomplished by denying one’s emotions and physical wants and needs (a conception similar to oblivion, but also conceivably to Nirvana). Their headquarters is the Mortuary, where Sigil’s dead are interred or cremated. Their philosophy is closely related to acosmism, with a more death geared ideal. The faction shares similarities with Buddhism and with the Stoics as well.
(“Takers”, “The Heartless”) believe that those with power and ability have the right to own what they control and to take what they can from those who are unable to keep it, and that it is their right to exploit any situation to their advantage, regardless of how it affects anyone else. Their headquarters is the Hall of Records, where they serve as the tax collectors of Sigil. They are derived from real-life Social Darwinists and the philosophies of Ayn Rand.
- Fraternity of Order
(“Guvners”), who believe that knowledge is power; they learn and exploit both the natural laws of the universe and the laws of society. Their headquarters is the City Court, where they serve as judges and legal advocates. They recall the Sophists of Classical Athens.
- Free League
(“Indeps”), who reject the other factions and their bureaucratic, hierarchical dogmatism; in fact, they don’t consider themselves a faction at all. For this reason, they don’t have a factol or an official headquarters, though Sigil’s Great Bazaar serves as an unofficial one. They believe in individual freedom as the highest good and could be considered similar to libertarianism.
(“Hardheads”), who believe that peace and stability can only be established under one rule—theirs. The planar faction known as the Harmonium is actually just a small part of a much larger political entity which rules over the entirety of the Prime Material world of Ortho. In Sigil, they serve as the city’s police force, and their headquarters is the City Barracks. They are related to present day authoritarianism, particularly religious evangelicalism and fundamentalism. It is strongly advised that visitors to Sigil never, under any circumstances, use the term ‘Hardhead’ in front of Harmonium members.
(“The Red Death”), who believe in justice and retribution at the expense of all else. Their name does not come from “killing out of mercy,” but rather “killing mercy.” Their credo that mercy is for the weak, and the merciful should be punished. Appropriately, their headquarters is Sigil’s Prison, where they carry out the sentences of convicted criminals.
- Revolutionary League
- Sign of One
(“Signers”), who believe that everyone is the center of their own reality and that reality can be reshaped by the power of imagination. Their headquarters is the Hall of Speakers, which houses Sigil’s legislature. Some of them are solipsists, though most are not so extreme.
- Society of Sensation
(“Sensates”), who believe that accumulating experiential knowledge through the senses is the only way to achieve enlightenment. Their headquarters is the Civic Festhall, which features an endless series of entertainments and a library of magically stored experiences. They are remniscent of ancient Epicurianism.
- Transcendent Order
(“Ciphers”), who believe that by tapping in to the ‘cadence’ of the planes and acting through pure instinct they can achieve a higher state of being. Their headquarters is the Great Gymnasium, where members can train to improve their bodies and minds. Their philosophy could be considered similar to Zen Buddhism.
(“Chaosmen”), who believe that the only truth is revealed in chaos. The Xaositects have been quite accurately described as being “totally off their rockers, every one of ‘em.” Their headquarters is the Hive, which is the most disorganized part of the Sigil ward of the same name. Some may consider their philosophy a slight twist to accidentalism, but a far more relevant parallel is the Cynics (Greek κῠνικός “dogs”) of antiquity. There is even a gang of Xaositects called the “Starved Dogs Barking” featured in Planescape: Torment. Compare with real life discordianism.