For the last few years, the idea of multiverses has had pop culture in a death grip. We’ve seen it done near-perfectly in movies like Everything, Everywhere All At Once and Across The Spider-verse, with the allure of infinite worlds and infinite possibilities being ripe for exploration.
And now, it’s Dungeons & Dragons’ turn to play with the multiverse with the return of one of its most alien settings ever, Planescape. To explain this world fully would require more time than any universe has, but Planescape: Adventures In The Multiverse’s three books help give you at least a taste of what this all-timer campaign setting offers.
Nestled in the centre of all of creation lies an infinitely tall spire, upon which sits the city of Sigil, nestled into the curve of a gigantic, floating taurus. Planescape is the connective tissue between the various worlds of D&D. Absolutely everything ever created for the game can be found in Sigil or its surrounding Outlands, whether it be from Eberron, Dragonlance, The Forgotten Realms, or even your own homebrew world.
Adventures In The Multiverse is three books bundled in one slipcase, much like last year’s Spelljammer release. You also get a double-sided map poster of either the city of Sigil or the Outlands, and a DM screen, with alternate art for both the screen and the book covers by classic Planescape artist Tony DiTerlizzi.
The first book is Sigil and the Outlands, the primary setting book. Of course, for a setting whose entire theme is ‘absolutely everything’, Sigil and the Outlands is a relatively brief introduction to the Planescape world – enough to run an adventure or campaign in it while only scratching the surface of what it has to offer. Of particular note is its detailed look at the city of Sigil itself, and its many factions and species. It also ventures out into the Outlands, with information on the 16 Gate Towns, which have developed near portals to other worlds.
While Sigil itself is a weird, jumbled metropolis at the heart of the multiverse, these Outlands will likely provide some of the most memorable roleplaying opportunities Planescape has to offer. Each town is heavily influenced by the plane its portal is connected to; not just culturally, but even in terms of physics and gameplay mechanics. One particularly interesting example is the Gate Town of Automata, connected to the plane of Mechanus. As parties explore Automata, they may gradually notice something odd: everything subconsciously falls into a rhythm. People all walk, talk, and work on beat, which could pose interesting challenges for a party when iperforming physical tasks or going into combat.
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the basics of Planescape, you can run an adventure with Turn Of Fortune’s Wheel. This is a three-part adventure designed for levels three to ten before, oddly, jumping ahead to level 17.
Your party wakes up in The Mortuary, a vast morgue on Sigil, and meets the wise-cracking skull, Morte. Before things get too Planescape: Torment-y, Morte leaves you, and you’re quickly sent on a mission throughout the Outlands to fill a broken Mimir – a skull that records the information of adventurers and explorers.
Mimirs serve a vital role across both Turn of Fortune’s Wheel and Sigil and the Outlands. Instead of simply info-dumping everything about Planescape all at once, Mimirs serve as guides, allowing your party to ask you about specific elements of the world when they need. Depending on how fleshed out your Mimir’s data banks are, you could provide sprawling descriptions of the world, or, if you’re not as familiar with Planescape, merely a brief overview of what’s happening. It’s a clever way to provide you as a DM a direct line of communication to your players without needing to sit them down and prattle on about Sigil for three hours before playing.
A defining feature of this adventure is its novel take on character death. Planescape contains everything that could ever happen, so it’s only natural that your party will eventually run into alternate versions of themselves. A short time after death, your character will return from the dead, but not quite the same. They might just look slightly different, or could be entirely different classes and species. These are still your character, but maybe the version you from another universe would have made instead.
Whether made by you as part of the character creation process, or made in secret by your DM to surprise you with who you are next, this cycle of death and rebirth will play a huge role in Turn of Fortune’s Wheel. While death is still something that should be avoided at all costs, it provides so much room for storytelling you wouldn’t get from a simple corpse in another setting. What about that character’s friends and family? What if their morality is different? Do they have any memory of your adventures up to this point? Do they even care about the adventure you’re on? There’s a lot to explore.
Finally, there’s Morte’s Planar Parade, the bestiary for Planescape. We don’t know a whole lot about this book so far, other than that it’s being narrated by Morte, which is sure to please everyone coming into this from Torment. The book’s said to contain over 50 monsters and enemies to run, ranging from the horrific to the bizarre, like the always-marching machine people, the Modrons.
Like all D&D bestiaries, this will probably be the most interesting book if you’re a DM who prefers to make your own settings. Every monster is fully compatible with any 5th Edition world – perhaps even more so, as Planescape gives you the simple narrative reasoning behind a Modron showing up in your world; “A portal did it”.
The concern is that, as Planescape’s whole identity is tied up in being everything, all the time, only those with a broad enough knowledge of D&D will be able to appreciate it fully. It would be hard to represent Sigil and the Outlands in a full-length setting book, and Adventures in the Multiverse is trying to fit it in three, much shorter ones instead. Is it going to be satisfying to newcomers, or even intermediate DMs, or is this going to be one only the most hardcore and invested of Planescape fans will be able to enjoy?
Though there is a real sense that Wizards might be biting off more than it can chew with Planescape: Adventures In The Multiverse, it’s impossible to deny that, in isolation, all the alien weirdness it has on offer sounds incredibly tempting. Even if you don’t run Planescape wholesale, this could be one of the richest sources of storytelling and roleplaying inspiration we’ve seen in D&D since the likes of Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel or The Wild Beyond The Witchlight.
Planescape: Adventures In The Multiverse launches on October 17, with a digital early access launch coming two weeks earlier, on October 3.
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