by famoth83, Dec 21,2009

Planescape Factions

The Planescape Factions are the bread and butter of anything that tries to include Planescape, so they must be described. They are also the closest I’m going to come to violating the Content Guidelines, so I going to have to limit myself. You will get their name, a single sentence describing their philosophy, and then my description of how they would thrive in a fourth edition setting. History and proper interpretation of the philosophy is important, but I’m making the call that I can’t give it to you under the Content Guidelines. My call isn’t official, but it is what I’m willing to risk.
Of course, since back story is important, I suggest that if this really interest you that you head over towards Planewalker, the official Planescape website, and look at Chapter 3 of their 3.5 Planescape material. That will cover most of your needs, and give you information on the Ringer Givers, a faction I’m not including here since it wasn’t mentioned at the end of the Faction Wars.
As for what is about to be described, my use of the word thrive rather than regroup is important. Many factions will regroup and thrive. Others would not be prone to regrouping, or would not thrive under a consolidating regroup. Many of the factions described below will instead go nomad to some degree or another, traveling together but settling down a base of operations. Some will fall between these two extreme, and exactly two factions will thrive by more or less dissolving any semblance of organization.

The Athar

‘’The gods are not worthy of worship.’’
Without the Spire to hide under, the Athar suffer in attempts at redirection. They have a message to spread, and they need a safe haven to spread it from. Anyplace in the Astral Sea is out of the question, and while the Elemental Chaos looks appealing due to its distance from the Astral Sea, it is a hostile place with people who’ll take the message in an entirely wrong way. What we’re left with is the Worlds Between.
Certain primes established in the published campaigns have the gods more absent than others. Athas is a prime example, though the sorcerer kings are just a dangerous. Eberron would be a more hospitable choice for them to set up shop, particularly with the disillusionment with the gods spread by the Last War in Khovaire.
For those not using Eberron, we’re not left with just home brewed campaign worlds. The Phlogiston itself makes an ideal place for the Athar to congregate. In Second Edition the Phlogiston was a place the gods could not touch, and while that restriction will be adjusted in Fourth Edition so as not to neuter character with the divine power source it won’t be going away entirely. The details of how will go in the Phlogiston’s section of the travel article, but rest assured the Phlogiston will be a safe place for the Athar to congregate and travel.

The Bleak Cable

‘’There is no point to existence.’’
The Bleak Cable would very easily dissolve into nothing without the trappings of a faction. There’s no point in staying in Sigil, but there’s also no point in leaving. In the Faction Wars the Cable dissolved in name and just continued to running Sigil’s insane asylum: the Gatehouse. While that might be true, it’s no longer cannon in the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 and honestly not the best form of survival for the Faction, since the asylum isn’t Faction exclusive anymore. So while the asylum most definitely still has some of the Cable in it, it isn’t their headquarters. In fact, as I envision them they would be the first faction described to go nomad.
When you believe that all the points behind conflict is pointless, you help people not because they’re right but to relieve the pain they’re putting on themselves; under that interpretation of their philosophy the Cable moved to action before and under it is how they’d surive. Leaving Sigil in small self supporting groups, they’d go where there is suffering, help those who are suffering, and recruiting those who have lost belief in everything. They’d gather or separate, but those who survive will almost always been in some kind of group. They’d live on as the depressed humanitarian of the universe.

The Doom Guard

‘’Entropy is all that is final: all will become nothing.’’
The act of regrouping for a group dedicated to entropy is a contradiction. The epilog of the Faction War module said as much, and with the lack of the inner planes they’ve lost their former bases making regrouping even harder than before. The nomad option isn’t valid for the Doom Guard, and they aren’t one of the two factions that thrive by not existing. As such the burden of making them thrive is finding a motivation for them to regroup.
The first option is motivation to gather at a location: dying worlds. Dead and dying worlds, like Athas the published campaign Dark Sun, would be magnets to the Doom Guard as idealized visions of what they see the rest of the universe moving toward. All it would take is one member of the Doom Guard finding Athas or a similar homebrewd world for the Doom Guard to start to migrate to it. Then just as the Bleak Cable recruits those who have lost belief in anything, the Doom Guard would recruit from those whose home Prime is the ultimate truth of their philosophy.
The second option is motivation of an adversary: the Far Realm. The Far Realm is a force of unentropic destruction, creating through the act corruption. This makes them a force dynamically opposed to the Doom Guard’s philosophy. Such an adversary would motivate the Doom Guard to regroup. Where depends on the needs of the campaign, and there is no reason option one and two can’t be combined. It all depends on how much of a factor you want the Doom Guard faction to be in a campaign.

The Dust Men

‘’Life is already over, the only point is to TRULY die.’’
The Dungeon Master Guide 2 mentions the Dust Men in their role as the undertakers of Sigil, and how that role has made all the undertakers of Sigil known as dust man in the cant of the city of doors. We’re not interested in those dust men, but the real Dust Men faction. While some of the Dust Men can be found in the Sigil mortuary maintaining the dead book, their future as a faction lies away from the city of doors.
I see the Dust Men gathering mostly in the Shadowfell. With certain aspects similar to Hades from the Great Wheel, any Shadowfell would be a good training ground for the Dust Men’s attempts to achieve zero emotion without falling into apathetic depression. Which Shadowfell is variable according to the needs of the campaign, but that is the easiest place to envision them to be.

The Fated

‘’Your fate, and your survival, is in your own hands.’’
All but chased out of Sigil, the Fated are the second hardest of all the factions to find a home. They don’t scream out one particular location, their behavior doesn’t scream out motivation for one location in particular. The only thing that could keep them alive is determination not to fade away. Thankfully that is something the Fated has in surplus.
While individually the Fated might be able to undertake the nomad route, as a Faction they need to regroup to survive. The Fated would be found in places that are hard to survive; places where their philosophy is its most virtuous and open to recruitment. It has to be homebrewed, so it is up to individual dungeon masters when filling out their campaign world. Personally I see it happening the wilds of either a Feywild or a Prime. Certain exemptions exists; if a group of Fated found themselves stranded on Athas I could certainly see them putting together the beginning of a lasting Nomad tribe.

The Fraternity of Order

‘’There are rules behind everything, and knowledge of those rules are what matters.’’
The Fraternity of Order are a case of the more things change the more they stay the same. In the results of the Faction War module, the Fraternity regrouped in Mechanus. I see no reason to change the destination of their regroup, or to be exact I see no reason to have them regroup someplace other than Mechanus. Mechanus will have to change to fit a universe without the Great Wheel. I see Mechanus in this fusion setting as its own sphere, a clockwork sphere in the sea of Phlogiston. It would be different while at same time being the same.
While their base is the same, it is also separated from the rest of existence. Therefore I also see the Fraternity as having one finger in every single pot. Infiltrating and recruiting from arcane orders on Toril and Eberron, field research teams to the Elemental Chaos and Athas, and spelljammers exploring the Phlogiston for undiscovered primes: the Fraternity wants to know the dark of everything and that takes an active investigative eye.

The Free League

‘’To be free is to be without dogma.’’
The Free League is one of the two factions that thrive by not existing, but only because at one time it did exist. It’s a popular philosophy without any recruitment, and honestly recruitment would only corrupt the message. Since the Free League once existed, any cutter who gets canny enough to learn about the Factions will be able to find the dark of the Free League, because even if they don’t go looking for it those among the other factions will identify those of the independent mindset as Free Leaguers. For most, the label will eventually stick.
As such the Leaguers might stay in Sigil or leave it as easily as birds on the wind. The means of how they’d travel doesn’t matter, but I’d see most of them traveling only to congregating unintentionally in crossroads. Spelljammer, portal, infinite staircase... the horizon’s the only limit.

The Harmonium

‘’Universal harmony can be achieved... under the harmonium.’’
The Harmonium has an interesting origin story, one which can be taken advantage of in the in finding their place in the post great wheel universe. Consolidating on their homeworld of Ortho, I could see the Harmonium revaluating their stance based on what they have learned. Embark on a campaign to gain full control of their sphere in the Phlogiston, their local Astral Sea, and even set up fortresses to guard against their local Elemental Chaos, the Harmonium would establish as possible to an uncorruptable hold on the territory they already hold.
This is all well and good, and will keep the Harmonium out of people’s hair... for a decade or twelve. Once their base of power is fully united under the Harmonium, I can see them fielding armies on a scale never seen before, shaking up the empires already existing in the Phlogiston with their desire to unite everyone under the Harmonium for the greater good of all. Of all Factions to adopt spelljammers, the Harmonium would be the one to field fleets of them, making them a rather interesting antagonist under the right circumstances.

The Mind’s Eye

‘’You have to experience everything before you move on’’
The hardest faction to find a home base for, post Faction War, the Mind’s Eye suffers from the fact they want to be everywhere. The solution to this dilemma is to make them the most nomadic faction around. If they want to be everywhere, give it to them. Traveling in small packs the Mind’s Eye would delve into the raw changed world with a vengeance, not truly settling down. If they set up any base of operations, it would be halfway houses in planar crossroads, particularly in hostile places where it is normally hard to find shelter.

The Revolutionary League

‘’The people of society can only know the truth without the trappings of society.’’
The Faction War module painted a rather unfaction like response for the Revolutionary League, coupled with a more appropriate counter reaction to this response with a comment on the circle of rings. Bringing the unity of rings into the picture is always good in Planescape, but it doesn’t really describe how the Revolutionary League would thrive so much as how they would self destruct. To get them to thrive we need to follow a nomad module.
Like the Cable, the League would go to where they where needed. They would recruit from the locals to form the resistance, and then move on to the next form of tyranny to be tossed down when they succeeded. When moving on most of their recruits would stay behind, but a very small few would move on with them if only to understand why they’re leaving, and through that the new generation of resistance cells would be born and continue to propagate throughout existence: one revolution at a time.
Of course the biggest tyranny for the League is the Harmonium. In contrast to the nomads I could see a large group of the League regrouping in the Elemental Chaos of Ortho in order to mount the revolution against the Harmonium. Depending on the position of the Harmonium to the PCs at the moment, this makes the League either an unexpected ally or persistent adversary.

The Society of Sensation

‘’You have to experience something to know it.’’
Potentially suffering the same problem as the Mind’s Eye, the Society of Sensation actually has an easier time due to the fact they are not entirely self serving. As such while bands of namers would set out from society strongholds to gather new experiences, the Society would set up stable bases to not only support their members but bring those experiences to others.
As for where those bases are, they’ll need two things: audiences to spread their message to and patrons to fund their journeys. Personally, I see those bases forming in the more civil places of the Feywild since not only would the Fey courts be possible patrons but the experiences in the Feywild are both brighter and darker than normal existence. There’s no given location in the Feywild one can just pick off a book, and bases are intentionally plural, so homebrewing is not only suggested but required with the Society.

The Sodkillers

‘’Might makes right.’’
A reborn faction from the aftermath of the Faction Wars, the epilog of the Faction Wars places the Sodkillers as mercenaries working out of Sigil. There’s no reason to change that, but there are reasons to take it a step further. The epilog also places them as trouble makers, but when your philosophy is “might makes right”, who are you to argue with the Lady Pain?
To by pass this argument, you simply have to think that someone got smart and decided to expand their operations. There’s no shortage of people who would agree with the Sodkiller philosophy in the universe, the real point is to go out there and recruit them. So operating as mercenary guilds, or infiltrating existing mercenary guilds as seasoned recruits, the Sodkillers would spread across existence. What they’d do with this network of people across existence is up to individual dungeon masters, but as long as it doesn’t violate their philosophy the sky’s the limit.

The Sons of Mercy

‘’What makes something just if whether it is first moral.’’
The Sons of Mercy probably get the most attention in the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2’s write up of the city of Sigil. This is a slight detriment to fitting them as a faction, but it’s an adaptable one. As a faction, the Sons of Mercy can’t be the city guard of Sigil. Like the dustmen being the name for the undertakers though, one name can be held by two groups of people. Many members of the city guard, including their leader, are both. To thrive though, the Sons must look outside of Sigil.
The Sons would thrive, in my mind, in an almost unique interpretation of the nomadic module. While most nomads travel in groups, the Sons of Mercy would be served best as knights errant. Lone questing champions, doing what is right by moral standards alone. They would occasionally take on an apprentice, forming traveling pairs that player might find reminiscent to the jedi or sith of science fiction. Such small pairs aren’t practical for real combat in fourth edition, but that is only a concern if they are going to face off against the player character; a possibility for the city guard, but much less a concern for the wandering champion.

The Transcendent Order

‘’Being in harmony with the universe eliminates all contemplation, leaving only action.’’
While to say that the Transcendent Order would thrive and survive no matter the situation is almost a given, this is mostly a case of the individual surviving members. Individually the remaining members would find their proper place in society, but that says nothing towards the survival of the Order as a faction. The answer in this case, is those faction members who proper place is in the role as teacher.
The Transcendent Order carries with it the feeling of a remote monastic tradition. To capitalize on this feeling, I would have the Order thrive with some of those who have full mastered the ways of the Order to take that mastery and teach it to others. Small schools in the most unlikely of places would be the start, but some would naturally become bigger than others. Members of the order don’t really need leadership or central authority so much as they need indoctrination and/or education. So while it is yet another situation that is conditional to the campaign, this formula would allow the Order to thrive.

The Xaositects

‘’Chaos is the true state of the universe.’’
Last of the Planescape factions, the Xaositects are a faction that like the Free League that thrives best dissolved. In fact, their level of organization before the Faction Wars was debatable. So overall the faction wouldn’t change much; though they might suffer a few members being mazed to them ‘refounding’ the faction. It’s just the sort of unpredictability you could expect from the Xaositects.
Like the Free League, the Xaositiects will continue to exist by not existing but only because they once did. The mindset is far too common not to consider a faction onto itself, and because the Xaositects once existed that is what others will label those they find with that mindset. Unlike the Free League, Xaositects would be far less likely take up the name of the old faction as a badge of honor. The Xaositects would be just as likely to claim to be factionless, part of another faction, or part of some new unheard faction.
One important note for the Xaositects is the Speakers of Xaos, an organization described in the Planes Below. Formed from members of the Xaositects and a lesser organization, this organization is... organized; founded in the philosophy of finding the order in chaos. Aside from being proof that the number of factions is only as finalized as a Dungeon Master decrees, this faction leaches the less chaotic members from the Xaositects keeping them more pure to their philosophy.

Spell Jammer Forces

Part of the weakness of Spell Jammer was its focus on the mechanics of space fantasy over the inhabitants of space fantasy. In some ways this is understandable since it was constructed to use the existing Second Edition campaign worlds as planets in the setting. Other reasons for this lack are the extensive amount of details required to describe the new mechanics under second edition scrutiny. Weak doesn’t imply a complete lack, though.
Some races like dwarves and lizard men were given a creative space fantasy spin in spell jammer. All three published campaign worlds of the time where given an almost too in-depth sphere construction for the planets other than the campaign planet itself. The Astromundi Cluster was a published sphere exclusive to Spell Jammer that could easily host a self contained Spell Jammer campaign... which almost seems to defeat the point of Spell Jammer.
What follows are the cream of the crop of what Spell Jammer contained in organized forces to fill up the Phlogiston, at least when you’re harvesting with the intent to merge Spell Jammer with Planescape. Certain details will be glazed over slightly, but more in an effort to be concise rather than obeying the content guidelines. This is lot closer to core D&D here than the Planescape factions.

Elven Armada

The player character races didn’t receive much attention in Spell Jammer. Dwarves got stone fortresses carved out of asteroids; lizard men got smarter... elves got an entire butterfly armada. The Elven Armada is a force of importance in Spell Jammer due to its scope. They spanned multiple spheres, less from an effort to control territory and more from supporting their race’s prominence. While dwarves and the lizard men are important to the feel of Spell Jammer, the elves have a strong importance for two reasons.
First is the importance of mood. Nothing really says space fantasy more than having elves sailing living ships made in the image of moths descending on your ship. Additionally the Elven Armada’s stereotypical elven racial superiority complex fills a gap in the philosophies of the Planescape factions. While not literally the same, it does provide a bastion of defense to keep the existing Planescape factions from absorbing them.
Second is the importance of scope. The dwarves and lizard men as described might stretch for a community or planet, but Elven Armada is a united navy spanning countless spheres. The Elven Armada is a true organization with resources available to stand toe to toe with any of the factions, even the Harmonium and Fraternity of Order.

Neogi Slavers

The Neogi, to the best of my knowledge, originated in Spell Jammer. Recently they have had resurgence in the Monster Manual 2. There were some minor changes, but nothing that doesn’t improve the creatures. Largest change was that they are now aberrant, natives to the Far Realm, and former slaves to the Mind Flayers. Since we never knew their home world before, it is not a difficult change to make.
There were a couple of original species in Spell Jammer. The reason why the Neogi get special attention is because they like the Elven Armada enhance the space fantasy feeling while being able to keep up with the factions. Iconic spider ships, slave taking from nonjammer worlds, and xenophobia to keep them from being absorbed by the Sodkillers or Fated. They’re a perfect Heroic to Paragon level antagonist, and that is just if you want to use them vanilla.

Children of the Far Realm

Creatures that are now considered to be from the Far Realm, aberrant, have a strong presences in Spelljammer. The Beholders take their internal racial intolerance up a notch to full civil war, while Mind Flayers pilot their own sea snail inspired spelljammers that they use to do what they do best. They and other creatures of the Far Realm are important in the space fantasy setting since they bring an alien feel without tainting the fantasy with science fiction. The Far Realm has a bit more potential, though.
There is a line describing the Daelkyr in Eberron: To the Daelkyr, destroying a world is a form of art. Define the term ‘world’ to mean entire spheres, and you get a powerful antagonist for this merger project. Even if you don’t want to use the Daelkyr, the Far Realm makes a powerful campaign arcing antagonist in a multi sphere campaign; one just needs to use an apocalyptic aberrant from the third edition product Elder Evils as your end game.