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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.