Planescape Planescape Future

So I was reading through my old Planescape books, as well as some Cyberpunk/Sci-Fi RPGs and the D&D 3.0 Dragonstar setting, and I wondered about not only incorporating modern/future elements into Planescape, but also implementing them in such a way so as to ultimately expand the scope of Planescape and improve it.

Basic Points

To lay the most basic groundwork, Dragonstar (my favorite 3.0 setting, though it has some wonky parts) basically posits the idea that all "prime" campaign settings are set in the same universe of the Prime Material Plane and that there exist advanced civilizations in the Prime (ie it is only a matter of time before someone in a spaceship comes across Toril, iirc there is an excellent post on enworld called Realmsian Dragonstar that explores this very issue), and it is this aspect that I plan to have as the first major change in a Planescape Modern/Future setting.

The first weird sticking point here is that as far as I know Planescape kind of (it was definitely not a very noted thing) more-or-less defaulted to the Spelljammer crystal spheres idea, and Dragonstar (where this first basic idea comes from) never touched upon the planes.

I think this problem is pretty easily bypassed however, by simply saying that it was always like that, and/or saying that crystal spheres are less hard barriers and more "membranes" that allow other parts of cosmology to intersect with them, and then futurizing planar locations like Sigil, etc. to match.

The Planes/Planar Physics and Diversity

This brings me to the next major aspect of Planescape Modern/Future, that of maintaining the intrigue and importance of the Planes themselves. Specifically, I personally feel many of the Planes need overhauls in general (and not just to "fit" a future theme).

Personally I always felt that too many of the Planes as they were just felt too ordinary, or at least the otherworldliness and just general importance of certain planes were too understated. But to get back to the more specific issue of the Planes in a Planescape Modern/Future setting, the good-aligned planes might promote magitech that improves health or generally improves the quality of life (varying dependent on the plane) while the evil planes promote things that spread ruin and destruction (the Abyss for one I could see leaning way into the Mad Max aesthetic).

Another possible idea is the concept of alternate prime materials, a la Rick and Morty or GURPS Infinite Worlds. This would actually fit neatly into the preexisting Planescape (iirc the idea of alternate prime materials was even brought up in D&D material) and with some tinkering and work could also potentially allow basically every possible universe in. This could, however, potentially make the distinction between prime and planar more confusing, and might warrant tinkering with those categories.

In terms of interplanar travel, I want to emphasize the idea of exploration and discovery in the Planes by making planar travel less dependent on a bunch of random portals scattered in one city and more free. Like, perhaps implementing a sort of interplanar-capable vehicle or spaceship that the PCs share, or a portal gun. The vehicle/gun could be limited in the places they could go, and the PCs might be looking for ways to unlock more places to go.

Another big point I think would be perfectly in line with Planescape's tone would be to establish how the power of the planes and where you are can majorly affect the very physics/reality around you, causing certain things (as well as magic) to work better or not work at all, depending on what you do. This would breed caution and practicality in planars, while simultaneously sometimes stunning primes who expected [x] to work here when it didn't.

In terms of planar diversity, this is mostly coming out of frustrations over how something like, say, magic is a bit too samey everywhere (this is probably a byproduct of Planescape being written for D&D 2e as well as due to how Planescape is honestly big enough to be its own gameline). In a modern/future game, I would probably expect greater diversity in magic and techniques on the streets of Sigil as well as tech (though this, especially in terms of systems and mechanics, is probably a larger point on its own). Also, the addition of more races and species (beyond just human-analogue) to Planescape would also greatly fit in with the tone of Planescape as well (maybe also make the "Planetouched" races more like templates that can be put on any race).

(A side note here would also be to revise the idea of the "Powers" or the gods, since modern/future eras tend to place less importance on them. But more specifically, referencing On Hallowed Ground for this, a bunch of gods and whole pantheons from mythology really make no sense being at higher than intermediate levels of Power-dom, so in general I feel the existence of Greater Powers on Planescape's scale should have some definite role in shaping the planes, and overall just more clearly defining the role of Powers in the planes.)

(Another addendum here would be on how the Cant might be established as slang words of terms used to express all these planar details, which is how most slang actually forms. As opposed to just having the Cant be there for no real etymological reason, like in og Planescape.)

Sigil

As for Sigil itself (and the general idea of "nexus" areas) I feel that the general aesthetics of Cyberpunk Red's Night City would be extremely apt for the city, possibly with more sci-fi space age overtones. I personally would alter a few things about Sigil's role, such as making it a lot bigger as a large space structure and also decentralizing it and making it into a more free-floating, traveling place rather than this weird lynchpin of the planes (that clashes with Planescape's "everywhere is the center of the multiverse" theme anyways), as well as taking another look at the factions in the place and their roles.

(As a side note, this would allow the omission of the Lady of Pain, which is fine by me since I never liked the Lady's influence on Planescape in general)

In terms of Sigil's random portals and free interplanar travel, establish how there are dedicated ports and customs stations for the latter, but also perhaps play up the former aspect by emphasizing Sigil's dimensional quirks, one potential idea being having Sigil just occasionally "absorb" things, anywhere from individual people to buildings, on other planes etc. (just for one way of showing it, there are many things you could possibly do instead of this). Also make it so that Sigil is less "a place separate from all the planes" but rather "a place with all planes of reality pressing in on all sides, making planar influence an undeniable aspect of the place." In addition, this allows for one to simply fly or travel to Sigil in a spaceship, spelljammer, etc. without needing any sort of actual interplanar travel.

Factions

I believe the factions are a large part of what made Planescape such a great setting. In the context of a modern/future Planescape, I think the emphasis on certain factions providing specific services and thus major parts of Sigil's infrastructure being split between certain factions could be toned down (though obviously not to post Faction War levels), and in exchange their presence throughout the multiverse could be increased, since in og Planescape it always felt they were Sigil exclusive guys. Basically, make their philosophies encompassing of many kinds of opinions and perspectives, and make the actual government of Sigil more of an active "neutral" force.

I also am going to give a really broad overview of each factions' potential role in this setting.

The Harmonium, Guvners, and Mercykillers still fill the roles of the "law" well, and their
philosophies could be expanded to take into account the perspectives and progress of
civilizations more than just being Sigil's law guys.

The Free League, Xaositects, and Revolutionary League fit really well into the celebration of individuality present in, say, Cyberpunk sources, as well as the need to "fight the power," and the spectrum of this core belief would pretty easily define these factions.

The Fated would especially fit the role of having great influence among megacorporation-type entities and the like.

The Bleak Cabal and Dustmen could fit the idea of the acknowledgement of the "indifferent universe" very well, their services would also fit in well in war-torn or oppressed areas.

The Godsmen, Signers, Sensates, and Ciphers all individually contribute philosophies that can be enhanced by the increased presence of technologies, etc., ie the Godsmen would likely seek to enhance themselves in different ways, but especially the Sensates would probably have a great time seeking out "enhanced reality" simulations and such, as well as greatly contributing to the "nightlife" of the places they are.

The Doomguard are kind of hard to fit in (I always felt like they were an offshoot sect of the Dustmen), but on second thought they would probably highly approve of draining planets of natural resources and environmental decay.

Adventure Ideas

So the following are just a few basic prompts that could be used to start a campaign in a Planescape Modern/Future setting.

The PCs are just some primitive clueless primes on a standard fantasy world (ie Toril, Greyhawk, etc.) who are hired for work "in a faraway land." It turns out the ship they got on is actually a spaceship headed to Sigil. Once there, the clueless must acclimate to their new surroundings, as well as carry out jobs for their unscrupulous employer until they can break free and make their own way in this new world.

The PCs are clueless primes on an industrializing world (take inspiration from Dragon magazine 277, or maybe something like Dishonored's world), who accidentally trigger a dead scientist's experimental portal, sending them to a free-floating section of Baator where they must bypass denizens of an industrialized portion of Avernus, in order to make their way to Sigil.

The PCs are native planars in Sigil who are hired to investigate a discovery by one of the factions, and who eventually play a role in defending the entire place.



I would really love to hear your feedback on this idea, and to hear your own opinions on it as well.


EDIT: Some other inspiration I draw from in terms of this setting are Pathfinder (especially in terms of "planar diversity"), Mutants and Masterminds, and the Scion rpg and its ilk.
 

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(Another addendum here would be on how the Cant might be established as slang words of terms used to express all these planar details, which is how most slang actually forms. As opposed to just having the Cant be there for no real etymological reason, like in og Planescape.)

Or just get rid of it entirely. Even in fantasy planescape it feels silly for everyone to be speaking in a ridiculous pseudo-cockney dialect.

As for Sigil itself (and the general idea of "nexus" areas) I feel that the general aesthetics of Cyberpunk Red's Night City would be extremely apt for the city, possibly with more sci-fi space age overtones. I personally would alter a few things about Sigil's role, such as making it a lot bigger as a large space structure and also decentralizing it and making it into a more free-floating, traveling place rather than this weird lynchpin of the planes (that clashes with Planescape's "everywhere is the center of the multiverse" theme anyways), as well as taking another look at the factions in the place and their roles.

My headcanon has always been that Sigil, while a significant trade hub, is far more full of itself than it is actually important. A little bit like New York City. (edit: but with the important distinction that unlike New York City, Sigil has ****-all people living there; having a mere 250000 inhabitants according to 3.5e's Planar Handbook)

And that furthermore, most of the importance it does have derives directly from that cockiness via the power of belief to alter outer the planes.
 

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