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Quick links: Athar | Bleak Cabal | Doomguard | Dustmen | Fated | Fraternity of Order | Free League | Harmonium | Mind’s Eye | Revolutionary League | Ring-Givers | Society of Sensation | Sodkillers | Sons of Mercy | Transcendent Order | Xaositects | Sects and Ex-Factions
The history of factions in Planescape is confusing, but most everyone who lives in Sigil remembers, or was told of, the upheaval that factions once caused in the city. At one time, there were perhaps a hundred different factions, all scheming for control of the city. After all, the person who controls the city also controls access to the known multiverse!
The fighting between factions ended in a bloody, two-week conflict that brought Sigil to a halt. The Lady of Pain ended it practically overnight when (speaking through a Dabus) she told them that no more than 15 factions would be permitted in Sigil: figure it out, or die. Some factions left Sigil, others did merge, and others simply disappeared, although whether their members simply quit or they were “taken out” by the Lady of Pain is up for dispute.
The remaining 15 factions that came out of the turmoil were larger and stronger than ever, and began to assume control of the city. Many sought out individuals who could hold them together, and with less competition, began to heavily recruit members, spreading out to other planes. For a time there was the peace and order that people believe the Lady of Pain sought. But as many Planars know, things come in “threes”. There would be a third act.
The details are confusing, the witness unreliable, and the only being that likely know what was going on — The Lady of Pain — was not speaking. What is known is that inter-factional fighting erupted, and this time it was so destructive that even hell smelled blood; the Blood War between the tanar’ri and baatezu erupted in a miniaturized version on the streets of Sigil, neither side wanting the other to gain a foothold in the city.
Once again, the Lady of Pain (through one of her Dabus) made decree to the factions: disband, or die.
What happened of course, is that most factions simply retreated from Sigil. They were far too powerful (in size and in philosophy) to outright disband, and as long as their business happened outside of the city, the Lady of Pain would leave them alone. Many factions already had a presence on other planes; logistics aside they could grow even more powerful, without those other pesky factions getting in their way.
And of course, just because they don’t have a base of operations in Sigil doesn’t mean their influence is absent; the factions have just learned to be more covert about it all. Controlling Sigil still remains the goal for many; some want to protect the natural order of the Planes; others? They want to break it in half and see what happens.
Factions and Planescape
Outside the walls of The Cage, factions continue to exert their presence on the population, both in Outland and beyond. The Prime Material planes and some of the, shall we say, more hostile planes are about the only place you can’t expect to find someone who belongs to one of the sixteen major factions listed below. Minor factions exist, and some pop up every so often, but most end up disbanding or being absorbed by on the major ones. As such, no minor factions are listed below, although they might be encountered during the game.
Players may opt to join a faction either before or during the game; being a member will allow a player to pick between particular themes that (refluffed) represent the experience of being a member. While players may opt to leave a faction, such a decision should not be made lightly; most factions deeply distrust ex-members of other factions, fearing that they may be spies or assassins, looking to upset their order (or chaos, in some cases). Players who wish to switch factions will find the process time-consuming and difficult.
Players gain access to people and resources they might otherwise not have thanks to being part of a faction. While the factol won’t personally come and help them, they will be privy to certain rumours and information, and (circumstances warranting) may be able to request aid.
Additionally, players who are members of factions can gain abilities that are related to the faction. These abilities function similarly to magic items (albeit, do not need to be equipped), but instead of being a form of material wealth, these items represent the faction’s “belief” having a tangible effect on the Planes. It may not be a very large effect (relatively speaking), but they should be considered extraordinary abilities, rather than either “treasure” or “training”.
The factions are as follows (credit goes to the Planescape Campaign Setting for these descriptions):
The Athar are most commonly found around the Great Spire in the Outlands, but members also travel with relative frequency to the Astral Plane. They believe the deities are unworthy of worship, and to do so reinforces their subjugation of mortals. To the Lost, deities are just incredibly powerful individuals, but are just as flawed as lesser beings and should not be idolized.
The Bleak Cabal is most commonly found in Pandemonium and its gate-town, Bedlam. It‘s members believe the multiverse has no purpose or deeper meaning, and every individual must find their own reasons and motivation from within. Though largely humanist in nature, the Bleakers often fall prey to depression and madness due to the implications of their beliefs. They can often be found supporting soup kitchens and other works of relief across the gate-towns and Sigil.
The Doomguard calls the negative Quasielemental Planes its home, though wild rumors place some Sinkers as fortifying in the Abyss as well. Their philosophy revolves around entropy, the force of decay that they believe to be the only constant on the planes. Whether that entropy needs to be assisted or stymied varies from member to member, but they have developed reputation as destruction-mongers.
The Dustmen have their outpost upon the Negative Energy Plane, though a number of them are still active in Sigil’s mortuary. They believe that this life is a shadow of real existence, and that everyone has already died and transitioned to this poor substitute. Seeing no value in this life, the Dustmen accept death, and work to prepare themselves for True Death and whatever stage of existence exists beyond it.
The Fated are often found in Ysgard and its gate-town, Glorium. The Takers accept that life is tough, but assert that it’s survival of the fittest, and that each individual has the right to do whatever it takes to survive and prosper. The multiverse exists for those that can take it, and those who won’t fight for their piece deserve to be shoved aside. The Fated weren’t much loved before the Faction War, and now that their former factol is blamed for beginning the war, many across the planes intensely distrust them.
The Fraternity of Order is centered on Mechanus and its gate-town, Automata. Understanding the laws of the multiverse provides influence over it, the Guvners say, and those that learn to exploit these rules will have true power. Their hunger for power is well known, and most folks are watchful of them despite their relatively inoffensive nature.
The Free League is spread evenly around the Outlands and gate-towns, spreading its philosophy of individual independence from the dictates of others. The Indeps believe the minds of the planes should be free from the thought police of the factions, and allowed to develop their own beliefs. While not advocates of revolution like the Revolutionary League, the Free League has often been persecuted by various groups because of its resistance to authority.
The Harmonium is mainly found in Arcadia and the Upper Planes, enforcing its belief in a unified, planes-wide organization. Peace, the Hardheads say, can only be achieved by getting every person across the planes to believe in the same ideals. Naturally, their beliefs are best suited for the task, so peace requires enlisting everyone into being a member of the Harmonium. While seemingly well meaning, the Hardheads have clearly gotten out of hand on a number of occasions, and people across the planes are often polarized between seeing them as saviors or thugs.
The Mind’s Eye is a neophyte organization, largely spread evenly across the Hinterlands of the Outlands. Also known as Seekers or Visionaries, they see the multiverse as a testing ground, a place designed to help one pursue self-discovery and personal growth. Only through this path can individuals move up the latter of existence. The catch is, they tend to perceive their surroundings as their personal playground, and their self-centered quality rivals that of their forebears, the Sign of One and the Believers of the Source.
The Revolutionary League is a loosely knit alliance of various anti-authoritarian cells spread across the planes, with its central holdings in Carceri. The Anarchs seek freedom from authority, and the total liberation of the planes from high-ups and hierarchies. Only once the chains of society are cast down will everyone be free to find the truth of the multiverse. Anarchists to a fault, they are rarely trusted. On the other hand, they often find alliances with the oppressed and dispossessed.
The Ring-Givers are a rapidly growing faction from Ysgard and now based in Sigil. Focused on freeing themselves from debt and reliance, the Bargainers believe that by coveting material possessions and convincing ourselves they are necessary, we become beholden to them. True freedom, they say, can only be found by giving everything up. Likewise, by giving everything you’ve got to the multiverse, the multiverse will be persuaded to act in kind. Though most folks laugh at the idea of tossing power or riches away, it can’t be denied that they often seem to end up on top of many deals.
The Society of Sensation is based out of Arborea, where it demonstrates its philosophy that experience equals power. That doesn’t mean simply length or depth of experience (though those are nice), but breadth. The Sensates believe experiencing something is the only way to understand it, and so to understand the multiverse one must expose oneself to as much of its experiences as possible.
The Sodkillers are based out of Acheron, and believe firmly that violence is the solution to all life’s problems. Whatever the trouble, a suitable amount of force properly utilized will resolve the matter. While not exactly popular, they’ve come to gain a significant amount of respect and power in Sigil because of the obvious effectiveness of their tactics.
The Sons of Mercy are a well-meaning group of white knights hailing from Bytopia, traveling across the planes on a mission to demonstrate the best qualities of good. While recognizing the role of laws in protecting the well-being of a community, the Martyrs feel that because law is corruptible, it should not be a hindrance in achieving the greater good. Likewise, they realize evil is counterproductive to peace in the multiverse, but believe that the best way to promote good is by living as an example and helping individuals reform. While noble, a gentle approach isn’t always an effective one, and this has earned them a reputation as idealistic fumblers.
The Transcendent Order centers in the serene locale of Elysium, seeking to attain unity of mind and thought. Deliberation and hesitation are flaws from the standpoint of their members, and the Ciphers believe that by purifying action into instinct one can discover their role in the multiverse. That role often brings them into the center of conflicts as a mediating force, bringing balance and calm to otherwise unstable situations.
The Xaositects are everywhere, but find their natural home is Limbo. Chaotic in the extreme, they think that disorder is the true state of the multiverse, and the only state worth seeking. True freedom and strength can only be found by loosing the shackles of reason and conformity according to their example, if not precisely their teachings. Most people simply think them mad, and often the Xaositects only back that up with their bizarre actions and schemes.
Finally, the Sects and Ex-Factions tell the story of what happened to some of the former power-players in Sigil.