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[#] Let's get Old Skool
04:36pm EDT - 10/10/2008

planescape



Back In My Day, when I first started playing 2nd edition AD&D, my very first RPG, I didn't start out playing Planescape. If I had it would definitely have scared me the hell away, because I was 12 or something. Planescape ain't for kids, it's not for hacking and slashing, it's not for min/maxing. It's the setting where a clever 1st-level character can do more damage than an Int 3, Wis 3 combat monster with more vorpal swords than digits. When you're 12, you just want to know that you found a bitching sword and how far that orc's head rolled when you cut him in half.

A lot of "modern" gamers missed out on this awesome setting, which was really one of the things that dragged 2nd edition AD&D above and beyond the hack-and-slash stigma that D&D is saddled with by a lot of people...

It's not an entirely undeserved stigma, D&D straight out of the basic book, in all editions, does tend to get played as "FUCK YEA, MORE MODIFIERS! NOW I CAN KILL MORE ORCS!" and the basic settings are always pretty bland and not much suited for anything else(Forgotten Realms? Greyhawk? Come on). And in 3rd edition, sorry to say it, you don't really have much more than these weedy settings, I've also heard of no particularly awesome 4th edition settings(but they have time to arrive, I suppose.).

2nd edition may not have been technically the epitome of D&D, 3rd and 4th do quite a few things a lot better, but where it shone was in the settings. You had Ravenloft, which was Horror D&D. You had Dark Sun, which was post-apocalyptic D&D where everything short of humans had been turned upside down(even staples like elves and dwarves). And then you had Planescape.

(Here's the short version of Planescape: Belief is power and can reshape reality, the Outer planes are the planes of philosophy and faith, the Inner planes are the elemental planes of substance and creation, the Primes are the places in between where the building blocks of the Inner planes create worlds and sustain life, while the deities and creatures of the Outer planes vie for control of the belief that said life has)

In addition to introducing a lot of cool new places(Finally some details on the Outer and Inner planes, and how we can go there and kill a lot of interesting new creatures for their loot!), Planescape also introduced some cool new concepts. Read Forgotten Realms and look at the NPC's, most of them are godlike creations with double-digit levels and more magical items than most deities lose down the couch cushions. In Planescape? Some of the most influential and powerful NPC's are 1st-level. Why? Belief.

Planescape's all about belief, there's no definite "good" or "evil," no definite right or wrong, dozens of beliefs about the nature of the entire setting, and you, the player, can choose to adhere to any of them. Winning battles in the Planes isn't just about hitting people over the head(though sometimes it DOES come to that), it's about converting them, shaking their faith and convincing them that YOU are right. A million dead demons won't conquer a single foot of Mount Celestia, but a clever conversion campaign can have half the Outlands sliding into the Abyss. Belief in the Outer Planes moves mountains, creates races, destroys obstacles.

It also forced players to be prepared and creative, on half the planes their spells would function weirdly, or in some cases not at all, or creatures would be immune to their weaponry, which was another reason to resort to dialogue. That Balor might be immune to your +2 longsword, but is he immune to a heartfelt conversion speech or deceitful trick that would have Yugoloths applauding?

Personally, one thing that's kept me returning to 2nd edition time after time is this: Beyond Charisma THERE ARE NO SOCIAL STATS OR ROLLS. Roleplaying, conversion, debate, lying, it's all roleplayed and arbitrated by the DM. In tight spots he might call for a Charisma check, but that's all. You can never rely on the dice, only on your own silver tongue.

For some reason, past some half-hearted fan conversion attempts, this setting was completely passed by for 3rd edition, much like Dark Sun and Ravenloft were. Which, considering the flavour of those settings(thought before brute force, and death very easy to come by), hardly does little to strip 3rd edition of the appearance that it's all about the numbers and dice.

If you want an introduction to Planescape, you can probably still find Planescape: Torment somewhere. A fine old Infinity Engine CRPG which really illustrates a lot of what Planescape is about, you see more of the game with 25 Wisdom and Intelligence than you do with 25 Strength and Dexterity. The game puts you as the Nameless One, an amnesiac immortal who loses his memories every time he TRULY does at the hands of an enemy he can't remember, and you're out to find out who the hell you are, why you're there and how the fuck you stop this asshole from killing you over and over. The story may not sound very original, but I've not seen an alien story of amnesia executed better in movie, book or game form before or since. Be warned, though, like Planescape, it is not a high action game. Violence is often an option, but the combat isn't particularly fascinating(though the higher-level spells are spectacularly over the top), it's essentially more like an interactive story, be ready to read some shit.

Alternately you can just jump in feet-first and find the books in physical form(sadly unlikely) or PDF form somewhere. Even if you don't find 2nd edition AD&D to be quite to your taste(as admitted, it has some technical flaws and can be a bit of a struggle to get into for some people), the concepts, settings, NPC's and quest hooks therein will no doubt enrich your campaigns and horrify/amaze/maim your players over and over again if you decide to loot them for whatever other games you run.

~PurpleXVI

I HAVE SUCH SIGHTS TO SHOW YOU

Comments

1 Mitchell Henderson
06:27pm UTC - 10/10/2008 [X]
PURPLE IS A NIGGER


2 Shas'O Faiz
06:28pm UTC - 10/10/2008 [X]
MITCH IS A NIGGER FOR BEATING ME TO THE PUNCH.

THAT IS ALL.


3 CAPSLOCKGUY
06:29pm UTC - 10/10/2008 [X]
PENIS PENIS PENIS PENIS


4 TOTALLY NOT PURPLE
06:29pm UTC - 10/10/2008 [X]
SCIENCE PROVES THAT YOU TWO ARE MORE NIGGERS THAN PURPLE IS A NIGGER. YOU CAN'T ARGUE WITH SCIENCE, NIG-NOGS.


5 Shas'O Faiz
06:32pm UTC - 10/10/2008 [X]
FAIZ IS A NIGGER FOR allowing himself to stoop to the level of people like Mitch and Purple.

Holy shit, I guess that whole "belief" thing really works...


6 Lord Licorice
06:49pm UTC - 10/10/2008 [X]
You are all suspended

In my heart~


7 HiddenKrypt
07:11pm UTC - 10/10/2008 [X]
Cool article, bro.


8 Thistledown
09:24pm UTC - 10/10/2008 [X]
I love Planescape and have always tried to encorporate some of the concepts (belief>might, players relying on their own wits) in every game I do, whether it be as a player or a DM.

Thanks for the article.


9 Number Seven
10:26pm UTC - 10/10/2008 [X]
oh god why did i think the comments were an article on their own~~


10 Della
03:22am UTC - 10/11/2008 [X]
<3 planescape


11 Ruler
04:59am UTC - 10/11/2008 [X]
Oh God what is this also Goddamnit Purple nice job.


12 DrmChsr0
07:38am UTC - 10/11/2008 [X]
And now, to convert Planescape for various systems.

Screw massive dicepools and butterflies, if I can talk a monster into doing ANYTHING at Level 1, this blows even Exalted out of the water. And Exalted is very well-known for doing crazyfuckawesome things.


13 Lord Licorice
03:25pm UTC - 10/11/2008 [X]
I've always wanted to play PS:T, but never got around to it; I'm sure it's readily available for download somewhere. I've also wanted to play an actual game in the Planescape setting, but I've just never had the opportunity. It sounds pretty awesome, though. You're right about the single Charisma score versus all the 3.5 crap like Perform: Convince You I'm Right and Bluff and such. It lets people roll their way through what's usually the most interesting part of a game.

If you're interested at all in the Planescape setting, you HAVE to read Beyond Countless Doorways. It's a book about a variety of strange planes and places, like Avadariel the Sundered Star (the players explore the cooled core of a dead sun, where the very *concept* of light is diminishing), a plane where the ground is a living creature that's been tainted into a coma by demons, a featureless white spheroid plane that hides a clockwork world... fantastic stuff. It's by four of the guys that worked on Planescape. Absolutely worth a read.

(Also, I'm convinced now that I need to make this comment box way bigger. I'm fucking cramped here.)


14 PurpleXVI
03:47pm UTC - 10/11/2008 [X]
To be fair, the only issue with very roll-free negotiation is that your DM needs to arbitrate it so you don't get away with completely ridiculous things, nor that every NPC strikes you dead for trying to talk to them.

Personally, though, I tend to be lenient with letting negotiation, threats, bribery and pure smooth-talkin' work better than bashing things in the head. It tends to encourage people to consider more creative options.

And the thing is, Planescape can let you do MORE fuckawesome things than Exalted. You can take a trip into OUTER SPACE to become SPACE PIRATES, then when you get bored of that, you can find a portal and crash your spaceship through the Elemental Air until angry mephits chase you out, then you land your ship whereever you can convince some poor sucker to pay an absurd price for it and use the money to fund new and awesome adventures.


15 Coyote
05:02pm UTC - 10/11/2008 [X]
Goddamnit Purple, stop making me want to play things I know I'll fail at.

Through crashing a space-going pirate ship stem first straight down through the Plane of Air does sound like one hell of a ride. (if gravity is subjective there, how the fuck does the boat decide which way is down?)


16 PrivatePlatypoda
07:19pm UTC - 10/11/2008 [X]
They did bring back Ravenloft in 3.X. Although White Wolf ruined it and turned it into a terrible, terrible franchise. There was Planescape in 3.X, too. Manual of the Planes and even more specifically the Planar Handbook were attempts to bring a non-setting specific Planescape into D&D. The problem is the game's fundamentally changed from what 3.X was so much that it really doesn't work anymore. Mechanically, 3.X just doesn't support Planescape as much of a possibility due to things like alignment being a hard coded part of the game. Thanks, alignment subtypes.

So it's possible to view it in 3.X, it's just like viewing a picture of it. You can see this awesome snapshot of an awesome setting, but there's nothing you can do with it. You want to see what's beyond the edges of the frame or what's behind the door but you can't, because it just doesn't exist in the frame of reference.

And 4e probably won't be much better. They mention Sigil already in the core books, but with the absence of a planar cosmology worth exploring and alignment being even more strict in 4e (you're all good guys and you either fight apathetic or bad guys) than in 3e, I don't see it as something that can be pulled off anymore.


17 PurpleXVI
03:00am UTC - 10/12/2008 [X]
Coyote: I believe Spelljammers have some form of artificial gravity thing going on when traversing Wildspace, Phlogiston and Truespace, probably also when in the atmosphere of Prime worlds.

PP: Yeah, sorry, I'd blocked out Ravenloft intentionally. As for Planescape, did they even detail stuff like the Factions and stuff outside of fan-projects? Because Planescape isn't just the Planes. The basic Planes themselves you can mess with outside of Planescape, hell, they're even mentioned in the PHB(at least in 2nd edition), but the, shall we say, mechanics, like Belief and how it works, and the different APPROACH to D&D, are what make Planescape, well, Planescape.


18 PrivatePlatypoda
03:54am UTC - 10/12/2008 [X]
There were Factions. The ones that survived the Faction Wars, anyway.


19 PurpleXVI
04:16am UTC - 10/12/2008 [X]
You shut your mouth, you shut your filthy mouth before I SHIT IN IT.

Faction War did not happen, ever. It's a lie, a dirty, disgusting LIE.

"OH HURRRRR LET'S TAKE A SHIT ON THE MOST AWESOME PART OF SIGIL AND BASICALLY ONE OF THE MOST DEFINING PARTS OF PLANESCAPE IN GENERAL HURRR DURRRR BUHHHH" fuck Faction War.


 

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