DnD fans know Planescape from one of two sources – the original Planescape setting and adventures released by TSR in 1994, or Black Isle Studios legendary DnD videogame Planescape: Torment, released in 1999. Wizards of the Coast’s upcoming three-book set, ‘Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse’ owes a clear debt to Black Isle’s legendary CRPG.
Wizards of the Coast announced more details for the upcoming DnD book on Thursday. It will release on October 17 via DnD Beyond, and will be available via digital early access on October 3.
If you’re not familiar with the Planescape setting, here’s the rundown – Planescape is everything. Or rather, it connects to everything. At the centre of the DnD cosmos is the Outlands, a cosmic plane that connects to, and is shaped by, all the most abstract planes of reality.
The Outlands connects to the domains of demons, devils, gods, and more besides, creating areas inflected with their distinctive magics.
In the centre of the Outlands is an infinitely tall spire, and at the top of that spire is Sigil, City of Doors. Sigil contains portals to and from everywhere – every plane in every version of reality. In Sigil anything is possible. Belief shapes reality, and the city is filled with the plots and schemes of many factions committed to wildly variant ideologies.
Like we said, Planescape is everything. The video game Planescape Torment attempted to make that dizzying scope a little more manageable for the player by putting you in control of an amnesiac immortal, the Nameless One. Torment begins, with the Nameless One waking up in Sigil’s mortuary – which is also exactly how ‘Turn of Fortune’s Wheel’, the adventure part of ‘Adventures in the Multiverse’, kicks off.
The party are even greeted by Morte, the same wise-cracking skull companion who greats the Nameless One at the start of Planescape Torment. He’s there on other business: speaking at a press preview, co-lead designer Wes Schneider says it’s up to the GM if the players’ adventure intersects with the plot of Torment at all.
Planescape Torment’s narrative follows the Nameless One as he pieces together the secret of his immortality – who he was in past lives, and why he’s doomed to to lose his memories again and again for eternity, without ever facing death. A similar theme runs through Turn of Fortune’s Wheel.
The player characters are out of step with the cosmos. Whenever they would die – or face another dramatic moment – they instead find themselves transformed into a different version of themself. That could be purely cosmetic, like a new hair color, or it could mean switching to a new DnD class or DnD race.
In effect, you’re now controlling an alternate universe version of the same character. Towards the very end of the adventure the player characters will discover a deep truth about themselves, which suddenly catapults them from level 10 to level 17.
Not only does this sound like heaps of fun, it’s also a call back to a late-game plot twist from Planescape Torment.
Of course there’s plenty of adventure to be had inbetween waking up on a slab and fast-forwarding towards epic levels. The players will go on a trans-planar expedition, investigating many of the Outlands Gate Towns – settlements built around planar gates to other realms – in search of a lost explorer. There’s even a walking castle in the offing.
If you’re intrigued by Planescape Torment, it’s well worth a playthrough (though the AD&D 2E rules may be a bit of a barrier to newer players). Video essayist Noah Caldwell Gervais has an excellent feature on it, if you’re not bothered by spoilers:
Co-lead designers Wes Schneider and Justice Arman both worked on Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, another multiverse-hopping caper across multiple planes. Schneider says that the big difference with Planescape is the sheer scope of the possibilities. The Radiant Citadel connected to a dozen adventure locations, while Planescape could go anywhere.
Our Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel review was glowing, so we’re eager to find out what Schneider and Arman can do with the Planescape setting. We do have some reservations about the expansion being broken into three volumes: check out our Spelljammer review for a breakdown of the weaknesses of the format.