Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How To Fix Planescape


I have been running campaigns since 1980, and I have had my basic philosophy about being a DM since pretty much day one...though it took years to hone it to a fine edge. One of the things I learned later was that like every human being, every edition of D&D must have its own asshole. It's always something, something marring the setting and becoming the giant gaping rectal cavity of this generation's D&D lineup.

For 4th Edition, it's the pointless change and
cynical pandering to MMO-addicted basement-dwellers who wouldn't know good fluff or roleplaying if it crawled out of the gravetrees of the Deepdark and bit them in the ass. For 3.5, it was CharOp, the colon of the Wizards forums, where people with self-diagnosed Asperger's gather to complain about social interaction and do math. For 3.0, it was being released early and shitty and swiftly replaced with the superior 3.5.

For 2E, it was the settings.

These things were so bad, they were the reason TSR nearly folded and had to be sold to Lorraine Williams. In a matter of years, the company put out Al-Qadim, Birthright, Council of Wyrms, Spellfire, Dark Sun, Kara-Tur, Rokugan, Planescape, Ravenloft, Athas, Mystara, Greyhawk and Spelljammer, hoping against hope that one of them would become a blockbuster. Spoilers: How many of those got a book in 3.x? Yeah, none. That's because it ended up in the hands of Wizards, who decided to cut back on the bullshit and release only a few settings.

One of them (which was palmed off to a bunch of grognards with a fansite) was Planescape, which ranks up there as one of the all-time worst settings devised. It started life as a cynical attempt to score some more money off gamers by re-releasing the same material (by taking the Great Wheel from Forgotten Realms and applying it to every setting ever) and, in an attempt to disguise it, covered it in Dr Seuss artwork and more ham-fisted philosophy bullshit than Terry Pratchett trying to write a Discworld book after about 1987.

In short: You play on the Outer Planes. There's a convenient Adventure City (TM) you're forced into, where everyone forms into guilds based on philosophical theories that would be laughed out by anyone who actually finished their philosophy degree and is kept in line by a giant floating DMPC, because they couldn't think of an original or interesting way to keep players in line outside of "an invincible lady kills you!!11". Oh yeah, and there were supposedly an infinite series of badly-designed parallel dimensions like Baator and Pandemonia which were full of interesting and playable ideas; if only it didn't have to be one or the other.

Anyway, over the years I've been thinking long and hard about this (if you know me, you know I'm a planar lorefag) and I have some suggestions for those DMs that want to make Planescape workable.

Sigil

If you don't want to just get rid of it, at least either remove the Lady of Pain, stat her up, or make it Aoskar's divine realm. Boom, done, no major changes.

Factions

Get rid of these, and set up one for every major alignment instead. Boom, done. (If you're up to it, do some goddamn research and rework the factions to base them on real schools of philosophical thought instead.)

The Planes
  • Elemental: Just roll all the elemental, quasi-elemental and para-elemental planes into one big elemental soup (hey, look! Something 4E got right!). Keep positive/negative if you want.
  • Elysium: The good planes are actually hard for me to comment on, because naturally nothing interesting or fun ever goes on there. How about this: The celestials get their own Blood War! They can fight in Elysium, which would be like Heaven only fluffy cloud cities floating over a battlefield where the happy flowers and stuff from before the Holy Wars continually regrow admist the bodies. It'd explain why the celestials don't just smash the fiends while they're busy with the Blood War, anyway.
And while we're at it... is it me or was the guy who invented "guardinals" probably in a giant orgy pile at a fur convention at the time? durrr, humans are too evil to be angelic! Let's get some anthropomorphic horses and draw erotica of them in the Book of Exalted Deeds! Seriously, just use devas instead.
  • The Beastlands: Honestly this plane is fine as-is, though I'd be careful since the fluff is probably a furry's wet dream these days.
  • Arborea: Why the fuck would you give a race its own plane? Kick out elves, make eladrin related to fey or something instead, add some rampaging feral animals or something and tada, you've got a workable adventurin' land.
  • Ysgard: Why not make it less happy and fluffy? It could be a plane of constant, pointless war, where dwarves and humans futilely fight the enemy until they lose all sense of identity. See, that's interesting.
  • Limbo: Oh look, it's the elemental planes mark 2! Shame, because the slaad were one of the few interesting planar races. How about making it truly random, where you're as likely to get a sudden mass of fire energy as you are to get an explosion of kittens, or potato boats, or penguins? Since, you know, it's the plane of RANDOM and all.
  • Pandemonium: This is one of those Outer Planes that seems to be a good idea for part of a plane, but not the whole thing. Eh. Add a really windy, mountainous surface layer, perhaps? Less dull tunnels, at least.
  • The Abyss: Leave as-is. It's excellent as it is. (So, naturally, the diaper-wearers at 4E had to fuck it up. Sigh.)
  • Carceri: Hey look, something that doesn't work as an entire plane. Stretching it out with infinite spheres didn't work, either. Why not make it one giant dyson sphere prison, or something? And maybe add a place where petitioners can appeal their sentence or do community service and eventually go to a better plane instead. They have to go somewhere, and it's not like petitioners mysteriously vanish into the plane eventually or something.
  • The Gray Waste: *gag*. Oh look, it's a boring wasteland because nothingness is scary, you guys, that's how Cthulhu worked! Actually, my main problem with this place is the yugoloths, what with their being pointless card-carrying villains that don't really do anything except go I AM eVil!!. Find me one book that actually explains how a yugoloth thinks and acts besides "I'm an evil mercenary lol" and I might change my mind, but this plane actually works well if you remove the yugoloths from it and make it what it should be: dark, desolate nothing.
  • Gehenna: Fire and brimstone, except no devils. Make up a race of fiends that live here or something, spice it up a bit.
  • Baator: It's okay, but the arch-devils need to be more non-humanoid (or at least not as samey - Dispater and Mephistopheles might as well be flat-chested twin sisters) and have some more thought put into them. Maybe some old Bibilical characters like Lucifer or Metatron could work as replacements.
  • Acheron: Ysgard, but EEEVIL!! Dedicating planes to specific races (this time orcs) in a setting which theoretically has infinite worlds and thus infinite race is fucking stupid. Take them out, take goblins out, take the maug from Fiendish Codex, relocate them here and make them the major race. Now it's not so bad.
  • Mechanus: Modrons always looked like the other outsider's retarded little cousins. Replace them with inevitables and this plane is fine.
  • Arcadia: I keep imagining a Wizards employee saying "Hey, a plane where nothing happens!" at their Planescape design meeting and facepalming. Make this the staging point for archons on their Holy War I thought of above, and it works.
  • Mount Celestia: Basing a plane off the Bible is never a good idea. Make it a more lawful (ie, even) number of layers like eight and maybe put some thought into the rulers of the archons. Have you read BoED? They're all glowy transgendered weirdoes. Bahamut is pretty good, though; maybe he can run the place.
  • Bytopia: If giving planes to races wasn't bad enough, you had to give it to the race of short and cute childlike tinkers with their nuclear robots and mechanical chickens. The only way to salvage this place is to kill it with fire, maybe say the eladrins wiped out the gnomes and put them in concentration camps during the Holy War.
  • The Outlands: Mashing random shit from all the other planes together like a patchwork and putting representative towns around the edges does not a hub world make. Replace it with a stand-alone hub world with its own unique geography, like Yggdrasil or something, and we'll talk.
There we have it, folks. Tomorrow I'll show you some more of my settings.

10 comments:

ZALGO said...

Hey asshole. Plagiarism. Heard of it? You'll ---H҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙ E҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙ C҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙ O҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙ M҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙ E҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙ S҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙ notice on my blog the date of posting precedes your blatant rip off.

} ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉ ҉̔̕̚̕̚҉ZA ~ L G ҉҉ ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘Z̙̜̝̞̟̠� �̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌� �̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚� �# O҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠� �̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌� �̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚ ҉҉ ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ # ̎̏̐̑ ̕̚̕̚ ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉҉̔̕̚̕̚҉ ͡҉҉̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ A̎̏̐̑L̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉҉G̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉҉
̕̚̕̚ ̔̕̚̕̚҉◊ख़҉̵̞� � ̒̓̔̕̚ ̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̕̚̕̚ ̡̢̛̗̘̙̜̝ ͡҉O҉ ̵̡̢̢̛̛̛̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟ ̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠̊̋̌̍̎ ̏̐̑̒̓ ̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̕̚̕ ̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚ ͡ ͡҉҉ C̓̔̿̿̿̕̚۩◊} O҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠� �̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌� �̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚� � M͡҉ E҉̔̕̚̕̚҉ S~ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡ ҉҉ ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘Z̙̜̝̞̟̠� �̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌� �̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚� �# ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚ ҉҉ ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ # ̎̏̐̑ ̕̚̕̚ ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉҉̔̕̚̕̚҉ ͡҉҉̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ A̎̏̐̑L̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉҉G̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉҉
̕̚̕̚ ̔̕̚̕̚҉◊ख़҉̵̞� � ̒̓̔̕̚ ̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̕̚̕̚ ̡̢̛̗̘̙̜̝ ͡҉O҉ ̵̡̢̢̛̛̛̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟ ̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠̊̋̌̍̎ ̏̐̑̒̓ ̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̕̚̕ ̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚ ͡ ͡҉҉ ̓̔̿̿̿̕̚۩◊HE COMES} ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉ ҉̔̕̚̕̚҉ ~ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡ ҉҉ ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘Z̙̜̝̞̟̠� �̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌� �̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚� �# ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚ ҉҉ ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ # ̎̏̐̑ ̕̚̕̚ ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉҉̔̕̚̕̚҉ ͡҉҉̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ A̎̏̐̑L̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉҉G̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉҉
̕̚̕̚ ̔̕̚̕̚҉◊ख़҉̵̞� � ̒̓̔̕̚ ̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̕̚̕̚ ̡̢̛̗̘̙̜̝ ͡҉ZALGOO҉ ̵IS̡̢̢̛ ce̛̛̖̗̘̙om inc̜̝̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟ ̠̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓ ̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̕̚̕ ̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚ ͡ ͡҉҉ ̓̔̿̿̿̕̚۩◊} YOU ASSHOLE̞̟̠͇̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕ ̚̕̚͡ ͡҉ ҉̔̕̚̕̚҉ ~ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡ ҉҉ ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘Z̙̜̝̞̟̠� �̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌� �̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚� �# ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚ ҉҉ ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ # ̎̏̐̑ ̕̚̕̚ ̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉҉̔̕̚̕̚҉ ͡҉҉̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ A̎̏̐̑L̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉҉G̔̕̚̕̚҉ ҉̵̞̟̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠͇ ̊̋̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̍ ̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚͡ ͡҉҉
̕̚̕̚ ̔̕̚̕̚҉◊ख़҉̵̞� � ̒̓̔̕̚ ̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̕̚̕̚ ̡̢̛̗̘̙̜̝ ͡҉O҉ ̵̡̢̢̛̛̛̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟ ̠̖̗̘̙̜̝̞̟̠̊̋̌̍̎ ̏̐̑̒̓ ̌̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̊̋̌̕̚̕ ̍̎̏̐̑̒̓̔̿̿̿̕̚̕̚ ͡ ͡҉҉ ̓̔̿̿̿̕̚۩◊

Ran said...

I thought Modrons were pretty much your favorite race ever, that you tried to use everywhere. :O And aren't Dispater and Mephistopheles flat-chested twin sisters in your setting?

(One of the above is true!)

Anonymous said...

This better be a late and lame April fools joke...

Henry said...

The tone of this post is so much like your other posts that I have no idea if you're pranking us or not. Well done.

Karizma said...

The April Fool's is that he's been running campaigns since 1980. The rest of it is true.*

*The accuracy of this statement is questionable.

Ettin said...

No problem, 4249888!

Rodwell said...

This post made me laugh. Seriously. I dunno if I was laughing with you or at you, but it did.

Anonymous said...

•The Gray Waste: remove the yugoloths from it
•Gehenna: Make up a race of fiends that live here or something

Would moving the Yugoloths to Gehenna work?

Ettin said...

I believe it did! :)

Anonymous said...

Didn't Rokugan get its own book in 3.x? I could swear it did... .