How To Build A Planar Philosopher Character In DND

A background in Dungeons & Dragons is one of the smaller but important aspects in character creation, often comprising a proficiency, a language, and a small feature to help you build your character. Though they often serve as a frame and a jumping-off point for character development and creation, backgrounds have increasingly started to become bigger parts of the creative process.


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In the past, backgrounds have provided players with little add-ons and ideas for traits, but the Planar Philosopher and the Gate Warden offer a feature that provides resistance as well, adding to the utility of a background for any character.


What Is The Planar Philosopher Background?

An elegantly dressed fox humanoid with a tiara.
Shemeshka by Irina Nordsol.

The Planar Philosopher is more or less what it says on the tin, lacking the subtlety of its sister background, the Gate Warden. You are a philosopher from the Outlands, an infinite plane connected to all other planes, serving as a bridge (of sorts) between dimensions.

The exposure to these planes has led to extraordinary advances in philosophy and understanding as well as different belief systems.

As a philosopher, you study the absolute truths of reality and existence, choosing among the incredible convergence of ideas from the many, many planar influences in the Gatetown you may occupy.

A Planar Philosopher may be inquisitive and welcoming when it comes to these ideas, or they may be stalwart and zealous, looking to shut out all other forms of belief.

You may follow these particular systems of thought alone, but many Planar Philosophers find and form guilds with like-minded individuals. Why your character does this is entirely up to you, but there are a variety of sects of thought to align one’s character with!

Planar Philosopher Factions

Your philosopher gains a skill proficiency based on each faction. If you aren’t associated with one, you may choose a skill alongside your existing proficiency in Arcana.

Faction

Ideals

Skill

Athar

Skeptics and disenchanted worshipers. This faction is for the lapsed cleric or ex-cult member, calling into question the nature and authenticity of the gods.

Religion

Bleak Cabal

This faction strikes out on its own, seeking to defy the idea that there is a sense or greater purpose in the chaos in the multiverse. Nihilists to their core, Bleakers believe that life doesn’t really have meaning.

Insight

Doomguard

Everything is destroyed and rots eventually, as is their purpose. These philosophers are often soldiers or weapon smiths.

Nature

Fated

An individual can craft and maintain their fate. If one does not deserve to have it, it will be taken from them. This is the faction of conquerors and tyrants.

Intimidation

Fraternity of Order

Laws are the end-all-be-all of everything. If a law exists, it must be maintained, which is why the exploitation of those laws must happen well within their bounds. That is what makes you truly powerful. This is the order of thieves, conmen, spellcasters, and the occasional lawyer.

History

Hands of Havoc

One is only truly free in utter chaos. To attempt to enforce order is to misunderstand the pattern of the universe. Chaos should be embraced, these rebels and anarchists believe.

Stealth

Harmonium

Power is might and harmony is only truly maintained through force. This is the faction of dictators and mediators alike.

Perception

Heralds of Dust

Hopeless wanderers and necromancers may gather under the Heralds, believing that the world everyone inhabits is but another plane. A plane of the afterlife, that is. They believe the world they occupy is a bridge to another form of existence.

Medicine

Mercykillers

Justice is the strongest belief of this faction, and it will be dispersed upon everyone indiscriminately, regardless of who ‘deserves it.’ This is the belief system of many bounty hunters and judges.

Survival

Mind’s Eye

Satisfaction is achieved through the understanding of the multiverse. Meaning, they say, can be found by studying how we change the world around us. Many craftsman and travelers tend to follow this belief.

Persuasion

Society of Sensation

A society of bards, hedonists, and revelers, this order believes that sensation and experience are what makes life sweet. To truly live deliciously, one must engage with and try everything, as they believe they are not truly alive unless they are feeling.

Performance

Transcendent Order

Thinking often stops action from taking precedence. Impulse drives a person for a reason. Daredevils and rescuers may make up this faction.

Athletics

These factions of Sigil, the Gatetown in which this background originates, are based out of schools of thought or are quite literally from other planes.

Species And Class Suggestions

No species line up especially well with this background flavor-wise, making it ideal for those who want to play anything. That being said, mechanically, choosing a species with an existing resistance will maximize utility in this background and avoid doubling up resistances.

If your plane makes you resistant to a type of damage, don’t choose a species that already has that resistance. Or, don’t choose the plane! Ultimately, though, this is up to you.

Classes that work well depend on the faction one chooses. That being said, clerics and paladins draw ability from beliefs and oaths respectively, and may make for good Planar Philosophers. Wizards, bards, and monks may also be good choices for this background.

Planar Philosopher Background Features

DND Dabus patrolling the city in Planescape
Dabus Protecting the City of Doors by Terraform Studios

Your first little feature is a fairly humble one.

Conviction

Your faction members can find you lodging for the night, either within their holdings or homes. You also gain the Scion of the Outer Planes feat.

You receive a proficiency in Arcana as well as one other skill of your choice. You also receive two languages and the Scion of the Outer Planes feat is given to you immediately. This is pretty strong for early levels!

Scion of the Outer Planes

Here’s how this feat works. You choose a plane to be from: Chaotic, Evil, Good, or Lawful. After choosing, you will be granted a cantrip and resistance to a specific type of damage, detailed here:

Plane

Resistance

Cantrips

Chaotic Outer Planes

Poison

Minor Illusion

Evil Outer Plane

Necrotic

Chill Touch

Good Outer Plane

Radiant

Sacred Flame

Lawful Outer Plane

Force

Guidance

The Outlands

Psychic

Mage Hand

The cantrip can be cast without material components. You can choose your spellcasting ability from your Intelligence, Charisma, or Wisdom scores.

Starting Equipment For The Gate Warden Background

Centaur from Sigil of Planescape walks towards an open door.
Art by Quintin Gleim

Your equipment is fairly unique and goes beyond a bedroll, as useful as that would be. No, your Planar Philosopher shuns the idea of the measly backpack and mess kit.

Instead, you receive a portal key, a manifesto of your philosophy, a set of common clothes designed to identify you with your faction, and a purse containing 10 gp worth of coins from all manner of different worlds and planes.

The portal key is a relic from older versions of Planescape. This key can allow you to activate one of the many portals in or around the Outlands. It can come in many forms, such as a phrase, a leaf, an actual key, three hops to the left, or a teacup.

Any way you spin it, the object or knowledge is yours, and as a philosopher, no one is more acquainted with knowledge than you.

For Dungeon Masters, a portal or gate key can be a daunting thing to put in the hands of a low-level character. For peace of mind, have a conversation with the player to decide where this will go.

For new players, you can use the portal as a plot hook to draw them further in. It can also be an opportunity to get your players to explore a setting they otherwise may not be able to!

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