Faction Spells

I am working on a concept for a Planescape campaign, and part of it includes modifying several tanar’ri, yugoloths, and other planar creatures from their 5th edition version to give them back their magical abilities that got lost somewhere along the way. And their Intelligence scores. I really have no idea what anyone was thinking with a marilith and nalfeshnee that don’t have any spells, or an alkilith and hezrou with an Intelligence of 6 and 5 respectively. These are demons, not ogres! And ultrolths at the same relative power level as beholders, storm giants, and nalfeshnees? Oh, please! You can run these monsters, but it wouldn’t be Planescape.

While I was making the updated monster stats and restored their lists of spells to something that would reflect the original abilities at least in spirit, I got the idea that spellcasting NPCs from the planar factions could also have lists of commonly used spells that reflect the spirits of their beliefs and organizations.

The results of this effort vary greatly. For the Athar, Godsmen, and Guvners I didn’t get anything, and for the Ciphers and Xaositects the lists also ended up very short (to the point where they will likely be undetectable as a pattern when players encounter them). But that’s alright I think. This can simply be something that is a prominent feature of some factions but not others.

When creating NPCs that could potentially be fought or provide magical assistance, the following lists are my starting point. I think these spells would also be the first ones that would be offered to PCs who are joining the factions and are looking for assistance and training from their new allies.

The Bleak Cabal

The Bleakers would have an interest in spells that cause madness in others and also preserve their own sanity. There’s not a lot of those in 5th edition, but these are certainly spells that many Bleaker spellcasters would be happy to have in their arsenal.

  • Cantrips: vicious mockery
  • 1st level: dissonant whispers, hideous laughter
  • 2nd level: calm emotions
  • 3rd level: fear
  • 4th level: confusion
  • 6th level: eyebite, irresistible dance
  • 8th level: feeblemind, mind blank
Doomguard

The Sinkers are all over entropy, and as such would be very much into all spells that either drain the strength from creatures or cause decay in the environment. And there’s really quite a lot of spells of this kind.

  • 1st level: arms of hadar, bane, ray of sickness, sleep
  • 2nd level: blindness, darkness, ray of enfeeblement, silence
  • 3rd level: bestow curse, hunger of hadar, slow, vampiric touch
  • 4th level: blight
  • 5th level: contagion
  • 6th level: circle of death, disintegrate, harm
  • 7th level: finger of death
Dustmen

For the Dusties everything revolves around death, so they would commonly use all kinds of necromancies. But they are also very much opposed to people dying before their time has come, or returning from death after their life has ended. As such, they would be using spells that keep people at and make them come back from the brink of death. They are of course also interested in interacting with the undead.

  • Cantrip: chill touch, spare the dying
  • 1st level: false life
  • 2nd level: gentle repose
  • 3rd level: animate dead, feign death, revivify, speak with dead
  • 4th level: death ward
  • 5th level: antilife shell
  • 6th level: create undead
Fated

The Takers believe that everything rightfully belongs to those who can take it and keep it. The most deserving people are those with the determination to do what it takes to get what they want. Unfortunately there are not a lot of spells to get things, but I think spells that help characters to keep the things they have would also be a perfect fit for this faction.

  • 1st level: alarm
  • 2nd level: arcane lock, knock, locate object
  • 3rd level: glyph of warding
  • 4th level: private sanctum, secret chest
  • 7th level: sequester
Free League

The Indeps hardly even count as a faction, sharing only the desire to not have to pledge allegiance to any other faction and simply be left alone to do as they please. Spells that allow them to avoid and escape control and detainment are great spells to help them maintain their freedom.

  • 1st level: expeditious retreat
  • 2nd level: misty step, sanctuary
  • 3rd level: haste
  • 4th level: freedom of movement
  • 5th level: passwall
  • 8th level: mind blank
Harmonium

The only thing the Hardheads ever really want is for everyone to comply and obey. They do want to make everyone adopt their beliefs and comply voluntarily, but they are really not above making people follow their rules by force when needed.

  • 1st level: command
  • 2nd level: detect thoughts, enthrall, hold person, suggestion
  • 5th level: dominate person, geas, hold monster
  • 6th level: mass suggestion
Mercykillers

They are all about delivering punishment to the guilty. There are plenty of spells to apprehend and imprison those who are trying to escape their just fate.

  • 1st level: compel duel, hellish rebuke, hex
  • 2nd level: hold person, see invisibility, silence
  • 3rd level: bestow curse, slow, stinking cloud
  • 4th level: locate creature, resilient sphere
  • 5th level: hold monster
  • 7th level: forcecage
  • 8th level: maze
  • 9th level: imprisonment, true seeing
Revolutionary League

The Anarchists are constantly working to overthrow the people in power and living their whole existence in complete paranoia. Anything that helps with maintaining secrecy is just the thing they need.

  • 1st level: disguise self, illusory script
  • 2nd level: detect thoughts, invisibility, knock, pass without trace
  • 3rd level: nondetection
  • 4th level: arcane eye, greater invisibility, private sanctum
  • 5th level: mislead, seeming
  • 8th level: mind blank
Sign of One

The Signers reject your reality and substitute their own. Pretty much all illusions and transmutations, as well as several enchantments are exactly the kind of magic they are looking for.

  • Cantrip: minor illusion
  • 1st level: charm person, disguise self, silent image
  • 2nd level: alter self, phantasmal force, suggestion
  • 3rd level: counterspell, dispel magic, major image
  • 4th level: fabricate, hallucinatory terrain, phantasmal killer, polymorph
  • 5th level: creation, modify memory, seeming
  • 6th level: mass suggestion, programmed illusion
  • 7th level: magnificent mansion, mirage arcane, simulacrum
  • 8th level: demiplane
  • 9th level: true polymorph, weird, wish
Society of Sensation

The Sensates seek to experience the Multiverse in as many ways as possible, so they can fully see the big picture behind everything and make sense of all existence. Like the Signers they would be very much interested in transmutations that let them experiences the forms of other creatures, but also in divinations that let them perceive what is usually hidden from their ordinary senses. Additionally, spells that help them survive particularly dangerous experiences are of great use to the Sensates.

  • Cantrips: resistance
  • 1st level: comprehend languages, identify, purify food and drink
  • 2nd level: alter self, beast sense, darkvision, protection from poison, see invisibility
  • 3rd level: clairvoyance, protection from energy, water breathing
  • 4th level: arcane eye, polymorph
  • 5th level: legend lore, scrying
  • 6th level: magic jar
  • 9th level: shapechange, true seeing
The Transcendent Order

The Ciphers believe that all the challenges of the Multiverse are not solved through reason, but through instinct. The Ciphers don’t think about threats they encounter or make plans or come up with tactics. They simply act, without hesitations or doubts, in the firm belief that everything will just work out as it’s supposed to.

  • Cantrip: guidance, resistance
  • 2nd level: enhance ability
  • 3rd level: haste, water walk
  • 8th level: mind blank
  • 9th level: foresight, time stop
Xaositects

Chaos is its own reward.

  • 2nd level: misty step
  • 3rd level: blink, hypnotic pattern
  • 4th level: confusion
  • 5th level: animate objects
  • 7th level: prismatic spray, reverse gravity

There might be more that I have not yet thought of. It seems rather suspicious to me that the concept I have in mind for the campaign would feature the Bleakers, Doomguards, Dustmen, Anarchists, Signers, and Sensates in quite prominent roles, and that these just happen to have the largest and most evocative spell lists. Though that could just be coincidence. Something about the Rule of Three or something.

Dusts of Minethys

The petitioners of Minethys are miserable; they’re greedy sods, and they won’t share anything with anyone unless they’re paid for it. Since there’s not much use for jink here, they barter for services and rags for protection against the wind. The strong are those who manage to gain the services of many: their sand-built huts offer the best shelter from the wind, though this means nothing in the path of the tornados. They’re a hard lot, and they’ll bob a body for all he’s worth, if he lets ’em.

The Realms of Reality

Two months ago I wrote about an idea of one day running a campaign in a downsized Planescape setting that has only 8 outer planes and 4 inner planes. Planescape has been a major influence on the Green Sun setting in general, and my ideas for the Spiritworld in particular. And so soon after writing that post, I went ahead to try out combining the two ideas for a campaign. While I had some good idea what I want the realms of the spirits to look like for a long time, I never actually got around to nailing them down into something tangible and specific. The planar system that resulted from toiling in the dark for many nights takes ideas and concepts from the planes of the Outlands, the Beastlands, Arborea, Pandemonium, Carceri, and Gehenna, and is tied together by a combination of the Plane of Shadow and the Ethereal Plane with several influences from the Gray Wastes of Hades. There are no dedicated elemental planes and no Astral Plane. Perhaps most curiously, there is no dedicated Material Plane either. As a result, the arrangement of the different realms is quite different from the way they work in Planescape.

Nature of the Realms

The world consists of an indeterminate number of realms that fall into two primary categories. The Spectral Realm and all the other realms. The other realms can be thought of as Corporeal Realms and people often divided them into Wild Realms and Underworld Realms, though that distinction is a subjective judgement and not based on specific distinguishing traits. The Wild Realms tend to be more similar to the Realm of Mortals, while the Underworld Realms are generally more inhospitable and their creatures more alien.

While the Corporeal Realms are generally separate from each other, all of them overlap with the Spectral Realm and are inseparetely tied to it. Mortal beings are native to the Corporeal Planes, while all spirits, which includes fey, elementals, and fiends, are native to the Spectral Realm. Mortal creatures can physically leave the Corporeal Realms and travel into the Spectral Realm. For spirits it is quite different. Spirits have the ability to project themselves into a Corporeal Realm without leaving the Spectral Realm. In fact, it is impossible for spirits to leave the Spectral Realm.

The Spectral Realm

The Spectral Realm mirrors all the Corporeal Realms, though there is a perpetual gloom and all colors are faded to almost gray, with the landscape appearing more like shadows than actual physical matter. It mirrors all the Corporeal Realms at the same time, resulting in a landscape as if someone had cut the maps of the Corporeal Realms into countless pieces and assembled them together into a single giant map at random. By travelling through the Spectral Realm one can reach any place in any Corporeal Realm. The difficult part is to find it. Fortunately for spectral travelers, the nature of time and distance seem to be very different in the Spectral Realm and if the right path is known seemingly every destination can be reached in just a few days.

However, keeping track of time in the Spectral Realm is difficult and its hard to determine how much time one has actually spend there. While staying in the Spectral Realm, mortal creatures are unable to fully fall asleep and gain no nourishment from food, making it impossible to take a long rest. They soon start to feel slightly tired and hungry but it never becomes unbearable, though for every day spend in the Spectral Realm they gain one level of exhaustion. If the exhaustion kills them, their physical forms fade away and they turn into shadows.

Spirits

Spirits come in three types. Fey, elementals, and fiends. Celestials and intelligent plants have their creature type changed to fey, while aberrations have their creature type change to fiends. Generally speaking, fey are only encountered in Wild Realms and fiends only in Underworld Realms, as well as in areas of the Spectral Realms that correspond to them. But since there is no hard distinction between the two there are some of the Corporeal Realms where one might encounter representatives of both. Elementals are neither fey nor fiends and they can be encountered in all the Corporeal Realms and anywhere in the Spectral Realm.

The Wild Realms

The Wild Realms are Corporeal Realms with environments quite similar to that of the Mortal Realm. Most are dominated by forests, mountains, and oceans and are full of life in many forms, much of which appearing very familiar to mortals. For some reason the Mortal Realm is rarely visited by physical manifestions of spirits, which many scholars believe to be in some way connected to intelligent humanoid mortals being native to it. In the other Wild Realms, fey and elementals are much more frequent and the forces of nature appear to be even more powerful and unpredictable. People have told tales of realms where it is always night or where the sun never sets, where it is snowing all year or the mists never dissipate. While many of the Wild Realms are majestic to behold, all of them are considerably more dangerous than the wilderness of the Mortal Realm.

The Underworld Realms

Compared the the Wild Realms, the Underworld Realms tend to be much more barren and desolate. Many of them appear to exist entirely underground without any surface, which gives them their name, though there are also numerous realms that appear as barren hills or deserts. Most tend to be dark or gloomy, but again this is not a universal rule. Storms are just as common as in the Wild Realms, often driving before them clouds of dust or ash from constantly errupting volcanoes.

Borders between Realms

While the Corporeal Realms are generally separate from each other, they do occasionally touch and form border regions between them, through which creatures can travel from one realm to the other without going through the Spectral Realm. Border regions are not really in one realm or the other, and the environment blends traits of both of them. Often these regions are difficult to notice and the change in environment only becomes fully apparent once travellers have crossed fully into the other realm. Border regions generally have two edges that allow passage to the two realms they connect. Often these edges are found at the entrances of mountain passes, cave mouths, or at different points along a river that runs between two realms. But in many cases they just exist in completely unremarkable spots in the forest. Some known edges have been marked by either mortals or fey, which can take the form of lines of unusual trees, thickets of brambles, or carved posts made from wood or stone. Border regions also exist out at sea, but these are particularly difficult to locate and map.

While many border regions stay in place for a very long time, they are not entirely permanent. Some might in fact be quite short lived, but are never discovered or their locations shared among scholars and hunters. Other border regions are only accessible during specific times. These could be specific months of the year for example, or only during night at a full moon. There are stories of islands of the mainland coast that can be reached only for a single night every year, or ships disappearing without a trace along routes where no signs of a border had ever been noticed.

Planescape/2

Planescape has always been hugely fascinating. But everyone will agree that it is very big. And I think many will admit that perhaps it might be too big. 17 outer planes, most with three or four layers, some with much more than that; and 18 inner planes. It does get a bit overwhelming.

While I was working on my Green Sun setting, I was drawing inspirations for the Otherworlds very heavily from Planescape. However, only from a small number of planes, all of which I would consider to be among the somewhat more obscure ones. You know which ones are the famous and popular ones: The Abyss, Baator, Limbo, Mechanus, and Celestia, with Hades, Elysium, and Arborea also having some claim to minor fame. These happen to be the “even numbered” planes; the ones that correspond directly to the nine alignments. It’s the “odd numbered” ones between them that very rarely seem to be given any attention. And I have to say, after 20-something years, the primary planes have started to feel a bit stale and overdone, while the secondary ones still hold much more fascination for me.

This got me the idea: How about running a Planescape campaign in which the outer planes only conist of the secondary planes? And only having four elemental inner planes should also be enough.

I admit, Bytopia and Arcadia still look pretty bland and boring in the Lawful Good corner. But then, I don’t think Celestia and Elysium ever did any better. But I do think that you could do something interesting with players having to do errands in Arcadia and the place feeling slightly too lawful for being balanced in its lawful goodness. After all, this is where the Harmonium has its main base, and these berks aren’t quite known for their politeness and ompassion.

I’ve never been thinking much of either Bytopia or Archeron, but their crazy landscape should be able to provide some short term fun. I think the odd one out is actually Ysgard. I can’t really imagine it as anything other than Viking Land.

I fully admit that Gehenna, Carceri, and Pandemonium are where my real love lies. These are the more desolate hells, which I really like. Very Dark Souls, I might say.

I’ve put so much work into my Green Sun setting that is finally turning into something really playable, so my next campaign just has to be set there. But the idea of using only half of Planescape without the worn out standard planes makes me once more quite exited to jump into that setting as well.

Planescape Finances

Whatever you do in Sigil, never do financial business with the factions.

Doomguard: “Short sell on everything!”

Dustmen: Always read the fine print on interest rates.

Fated: “Greed is good.”

Revolutionary League: “You can’t trust banks and governments. Invest everything in gold!”

Sensates: Could bancruptcy be a valuable enlightening experience?

Who kicked the dogs out?

Someone in a forum asked for fantasy novels set in a world with a style similar to the old videogame Morrowind (so far we’re mostly drawing blanks) and that got me thinking some more about that particular setting again. Back when I was 18 I thought it was a bit daring in how different it is from “proper fantasy” and it was ultimately the gameplay of the series that never got me really deeply invested in the game. But the setting and particularly it’s aesthetics stuck with me ever since and these days I hold it in very high esteem precisely because it’s so different.

While the stuff I had been working with before I nailed down the original concept for the Ancient Lands was pretty generic standard fantasy stuff and I am not ditching everything of that just because it’s generic, I very quickly got excited about the idea of also drawing inspirations from some very nonstandard works to create a somewhat unique style for my own world. Among Morrowind and Star Wars, there’s also the two classic and very quirky Dungeons & Dragons settings Dark Sun and Planescape, the continent Kalimdor from Warcraft III and Xen’drik from Eberron, and at least visually I am very taken with the John Carter movie. And thinking about what makes Morrowind so unique and interesting that could be found in unrelated fantasy novels also got me to start looking for what things these settings have in common that I might incorporate directly into my own setting.

And one very destinctive thing thing is that not only the environments look somewhat otherworldly, the wildlife is also completely different from what we have in Europe and North America. There are no dogs and wolves. Also no bears and no wild pigs. And people don’t keep horses, cows, and sheep. I already created a good number of animal-like creatures, mostly based on reptiles and insects, many of which can serve quite similar roles. So how about kicking out the dogs? And the wolves and the horses, and the sheep? Horses would be the biggest immediate change as far as players are concerned, but being all forests, mountains, and islands they didn’t really have much of a prominent presence in the setting to begin with. Usually “nonstandard fantasy” means not having elves and dwarves and giving people guns. (Yes, not only is there such a thing as “standard fantasy”, there’s also “standard nonstandard fantasy”.) But going the opposite direction and taking even more real world elements out of the setting and replacing them with more made up things might actually be a really interesting direction to explore. It worked for Dark Sun and Planescape, and those are probably the two best settings ever done for RPGs.