Well met, primers! Oh, I mean, friends. When in Sigil, do as the Cagers do. You’ll have to forgive such tone, being a long time resident, myself. I’ll spare you little in The Cant, the strange dialect of the city. But please, blame me not if a bit of it leaks into my mannerisms and speech. You see, Sigil is a place unlike many others. The anomalous city hovers inside of a ring-like formation that floats just above the peak of the Outlands Spire. While the spire is quiet dangerous, especially to forces of the supernatural; these threats don’t necessarily affect those who make it here. But, these are replaced by a trove of new potential dangers. After all, this is the meeting place of the multiverse. So, let us take our journey into that wondrous center of countless realities. I speak of none other than Sigil, the City of Doors.
It has been far too long since I’ve actively returned home. Too much has happened, including the scrambling of reality itself! Thanks to that strange man in the machine cart, I’m here now though. With any luck, that fading city found its peace too. In the meantime, I’ve found mine. Of course, both dangers and delights line the streets, so one must always stay aware of their surroundings. And if you are from the Prime, do your best to not look too lost. Too many prey on “The Clueless”, whether through scams or more direct means.
Author’s Note: Good old City of Doors! Few things have inspired me more within the realm of D&D than Planescape. That setting has affected me when I tinker with other systems too! And by all means, Sigil is a center of that. So, here are a number of ideas that have come up either through various games or just ideas of my own. And, it was from said games that the Gamma World/Planescape crossover ideas spawned. Also, please pardon the fact that a tropical storm knocked out my power for a few days. My data wouldn’t even let me use my phone to edit things. Time to save up for a generator, right?
The Hive Ward
The first place to be and the worst place to be. These are the downtrodden and sorrow-filled slums of Sigil. Destitute newcomers and generations old impoverished find themselves huddled behind decrepit and ignored walls. In some cases, areas are literally walled in. They say that the Harmonium aims to make said walls all encompassing and quite massive. Such a project much perturb the Dabus or even the Lady! But, within the streets and alleys of the depressive sprawl, there is still much to see. Careful to avoid the strange ooze puddles and bandits found along the streets. One will peel you of your jink, one will pull you to elsewhere outright!
The Incredible Demon Maze, that’s what one twisted entrepreneur calls their latest creation. The Slags are a particularly awful place of rubble and tunnels, all maintained by some means of abyssal creature. It seems said creature has taken investment in capital, as it has no issue with a new business in town. The owner of “this maze” proclaims that you can sign up to explore the Slags and win big prizes depending on what you uncover. The Dark of the matter is that the creature in the Slags has sunk its claws into a magical artifact from the world of Mystara, creating not just the golem-like Magen, but making them look fully human. Mr. Fletch, the Salesman, is actually one of these. His purpose is to lure barmy and addle-coved adventurers to their dooms. But, should they survive, the demon below usually whips up some ironic prize. As has been documented, the Slags creature has a twisted sense of humor.
Hushed tones rarely bring up Those Who Meet Their Ends in The Hive Ward. But, the chant speaks of strange back alley murders. Those in the Dead-book rarely have their meat chunks found, some debris left. What usually is found is a trash container filled with bloody chunks. In truth, the Living Dumpster has found its way to Sigil from a version of Terra thanks to collaborations of occultists and artificers alike. Many that hide within the alleys of the Hive are usually used as guard specific areas. These animated receptacles are hard to place from the recently installed garbage bins put in place by lawful decree. Few want to work for the new sanitation department, well aware that their bin could be an evil construct instead. Even the Hardheads that put the trash bin decree in place are extremely reluctant to go near one, for the same reason… Of course, they hate going into the Hive anyway. The real dark is that an Anarchist not only found the creature’s design, but helped install the fakes all across points in the ward.
The Helpful Hands Lending Company. What an out of place name for the Hive Ward, yes? It’s an ironic one at that. This predatory bunch of run multiple strings throughout The Cage. Their first operation is to create loans that are extremely hard to cover, at the hands of particularly malicious Takers and Sinkers who’ve teamed up to bring economic ruin. The second is the fate that befalls those who fail to pay… servitude among one of their approved business partners. This amounts to “pay job imprisonment” or a kind of slavery. This lasts until their wage can pay off the loan, which is theoretically possible. But, given inflation, unless the subject works to death, they’re lucky if they’ll pay off through work in 10 – 15 years for particularly bad loans. How do they get away with this? They have many Guvners and Hardheads in their pockets, either through clever arguments or some extra jink on the side. And the worst part, they’re upfront about all of their harshest policies, in attempt to put full blame on the signer. As for the signers? They’re enticed by relaxed policies for a few months and a good amount upfront. If you were promised a shot at a better future, wouldn’t you take it? Just go between Black Boot Walk and the Marble District’s entry. And no, they have nothing to do with the Tear of the Barghest Tavern… so they say.
The Lower Ward, a place of hard ward and a thin veil of sickening smog. And by all means, the smog is literally sickening. Many of the citizens have a pallid color to their skin and sickness is a sad reality. They say that the namesake and the smog is the fault of a brief connection to the Lower Planes (likely the Grey Wastes). However, a center for industry can be found here, through The Great Foundry or elsewhere.
The Cabal of Ashes is a cult that recently formed within the Lower Ward. Under the guise of mysterious undead benefactors, the cult seeks to sample the sickness and smog blankets found within the ward. From there, they wish to spread “the powers of ash” to those who accept them; usually the depressed and irreconcilably ill. Said ash consumes the victim and their energy is transferred to some other place, likely the Quasi-Elemental Plane of Ash. As it is, their presence has caused an ashen quality to develop in the ward’s smog. I’ve heard things on a secret society of truly evil undead, but is this related? There’s no doubt about it! But, what do they really want as their endgame? They’ve had their fingers involved within the planes already. Few are talking on any of this, save for a cleric who upkeeps a Shrine to Myrkul in Ragmonger’s Lane. All he knows and will say is that he knows of their existence and he didn’t trust the invitations sent to him. He’ll say no more public, only in a safe place.
Well into the Lower Ward is some cross-planar curiosities. The Siege Engine is certainly one of those things. But, a block or two away is a store unlike anything ever seen with the City, let alone the Great Wheel. I speak of a bathysphere that acts as the entryway to a truly incredible store. The rest of the store is built on top of it, with customers opening the wheel to the ceiling door and climbing out. The Rustic Sphere is an emporium of incredible artifacts. Most aren’t of magic, but truly alien high-technology. For the most part, these goods are mostly harmless and meant for everyday application. Tons of artwork hints at distant and alien cultures, all revering many legendary and wonderful beings. As for myself, I purchased a set of rather strange looking rolling dice within a glass container. Each is cut into a marvelous shape. I can’t help but think that these are meant for some elaborate game. The Chants tells of the owner’s extensive weapons and armor collection. And where does all of this come from? A ruined version of Terra, in a dark future. But, the front diving sphere isn’t just a sales gimmick. You want the real Dark? It’s a portal key, to Gamma Terra itself! But, how to activate it? From what I’ve scraped from an inner circle, one must recite a passage from a novel entitled “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. Sadly, I lack this book. Gamma Terra, another day. Either way, the Godsmen want to speak with the owner. And some say that a Sinker has been informed about this weapons collection. Bad things might come to the Sphere soon enough.
The Alchemist’s Revue is an oddly titled place, for a business that’s rather straight forward. The shop is where one can bring supplies to have them transmuted into others. Waldogaster However, there is a catch. The owner has a thing for flamboyant theatrics. Often, the customer will be roped into an elaborate impromptu show for “seemingly no one” before they get their desired item. As to why this shop exists within this ward and not the likes of others? Simply put, the process is considered far too dirty and messy to be allowed in more clean and upscale streets. And for what it’s worth, this is very much true. And for the curious onlooker, the door is always open to observe one of these tacky performances. Given the low prices, customers are more than willing to embarrass themselves for a decadent wizard’s barmy works. According to Waldogaster, his performances double as rituals which aid in the creation process. In all fairness, beyond his reduced prices, the speed of the actual crafting seems to be cut as well. Some figure he either has secret bardic talents or has extra help.
The Guildhall/Market Ward
A place of non-faction oriented guild work and general commerce. It’s no wonder that it attracts the Indeps. It’s here where a bunch of business-centric companies and interests meet over various matters. More independent sources prefer to set up show in the Great Bazaar, a place to buy almost anything found within known reality. For the most part, things are self-regulated with relative success. Coin (or jink) is the best language to speak in this ward.
The Weary Spirit Infirmary is an unattractive option to many. The operators there are truly the most dismal of people. And more often than not, after gruesome procedures, the patients usually perish and get dumped somewhere. But, an alternative is the Huvert Harflar School of Medicinal Practice, at the northwestern edge of the ward. This young upstart education center/hospital looks far more cheerful, but something about its layout is truly uncanny. In truth, this institution isn’t much better. The eponymous Harflar was far more noble, than his son, “Jr.” As for Harflar Junior, the gnome sought out the Sensates to expand on not only understanding senses, but expand his potential for sadism. Any means of evil experiments are conducted on patients when few are paying attention. But, the lucky many who enter usually leave unharmed. But, for those who aren’t? This can range from mutilation beyond recognition to deformities to expiring into a mass of amorphous goo. The mad doctor maintains a cheerful smile, if only to grab an unwilling subject for his various sense tests. But, unlike with that other facility, he’ll often warn that he’s trying new and experimental procedures, to “put the blame” on any willing to sign up for his torments. And thanks to a corrupt Guvner friend, he’s gotten out of trouble time and again. Many are off-put by his puffy and wild hair and mustache combo, with swirly green lens goggles resting upon his goofy tomato-like nose. All patients are viewed as nothing more than tools for creating new sensations and learning material.
In the way of entertainment, one can look to whatever antics a Primer might be up to within the city. But, for the less cynical, there are venues to support the arts. Many higher class establishments exist within the Lady’s Ward, catering to a more pompous audience. And for the ultra low-brow, there’s whatever is cooking in the Bottle & Jug in the Hive Ward. But, for the listener of strange bardic musings and even stranger song-craft, look no further than The House of Caterwaul Prayers. This elaborate cathedral is far from a typical church, but a place to explore all sorts of music. Enchanted halls are contrasted with forged devices to enhance the mood and sounds that vibrant between the “pews”. The owners are a chronomancer from Abeir-Toril and bard from here in the Cage. The latter proclaims to have scoured the multiverse in favor of incredible new styles and talents. Her yearly “Battle of the Bards” showcases the beautiful to bizarre concepts she has dug up and helped lend to aspiring musicians. As for the former? He’s one to travel by spelljammer to worlds and observe pieces through the ages. He assures me that such is the extent of his time meddling. Both have claimed to inspire a movement called “stone music”, with the “berk stone” sub-genre for more abrasive and harsh concepts.
The Guildhall is home to several ethnic neighborhoods, far more prosperous than the ghettos of The Hive Ward. Two of these hail from the world of Mystara. New Crystal Peak has a clan of dwarves who escaped Blackmoor before its darker years leading to the Great Rain of Fire. While many have forsaken technomancy in favor of Kagyor’s traditions, they still employ some level of artifice and arcane tinkering into their enclave. Their arrival had much to do with the Comeback Inn itself, as well as much manipulation with nearby Immortals. This little neighborhood is built up of incredible stonework and metallurgy too, and has gradually welcomed outside dwarf clans into its ranks. Petite Renardie is a community of Lupins, who have found an out from the dreaded Red Curse. Renardie wine and seasoned fine meats are specialties of this section. Don’t ask where the meat is from. Lately, they’ve caused commotion after suspected lycanthropes have disappeared within the city. The lupins either take no credit or feel no remorse if they’re responsible. They share space next to the Elf Commune of The Forest. The Chant says that both hold knowledge over a demiplane rife with groves and vineyards.
The Clerk’s Ward
A block of bureaucracy, carried out by scribes, ministers, representatives and eponymous clerks. It is here where central action for law happens, and where discussion over law occurs. Many have tried to interpret these matters as they see fit… and not just the Fraternity of Order.
The Hall of Hunters is barely a guild and barely considered legal. This enclave of bounty hunters had previously met in secret within the Workers District of the ward. Their purpose was taking independent action against planar criminals and threats. Their vigilantism has slowly been found out by the Red Death and Hardheads, who are both greatly aggravated by their presence. Matters grew worse after a Dizantar used the guild as a ways of hunting down a Mercane owner of the Portal Jammer eating house. In lieu of this, they have petitioned to be formally recognized as a well-regulated citizen’s militia. In the case of the Dizantar, he was merely a new member who exploited services. A wealthy entrepreneur from Tradegate wants to sponsor the guild’s movement to the Guildhall and Market Ward, under their protection. Said patron has preferred to keep themselves anonymous. None the less, they argue that they are very much a civilian branch of upholding the law, hoping their patron will fight for their rights within the Clerk’s Ward. Their goal is to get further organized and be a supplementary community guard to the Harmonium’s actions and the like.
Young Cage Organizers for Democracy, a sign of hope from the younger generations of Sigil. Many of these youthful planewalkers have visited societies follow republics and democracies. Such systems inspired these upstarting members of society, who formed a massive hall to plan, organize and petition for such systems making their way to the City itself. All of this talk of such upheaval greatly scares many of the factions, who much enjoy the status quo. But, many of the guild members have thrown their support for these efforts. More than likely, they won’t get too far. But, they’ve already inspired others to push for moderate reform within factions and bureaucracy within the city. While their dream is far away, they might help to push for better life in The Cage one way or another.
On the subject of the young people, one institution has emerged to ensure a well balanced and unbiased education. Both an academy and a college, Boundless Cage University holds itself up as a high caliber of scholarly excellence. Many of the graduates would attest too. But, the reality of it is that it’s a front for the Acts of Balance to make their way into faction politics. Some lessons are said to subtly impart distrust of the other factions into the students. But otherwise, students are encouraged to explore all possible viewpoints and form a rational take in response to all. As for the staff? They tend to be bland and lacking in strong conviction, to the point of being uncanny. Majority of the staff consists of Centrist faction members. Like with the Organizers for Democracy, most support comes from the guilds, many of which are clued into the anti-faction bias. In the end, many of these graduates have helped to lead the guilds and other organizations in new directions. Only a handful feel interested in joining the various factions though. This trend has sparked some tension and worry, wondering what this education center is really about. Some have tried to worm their way in, to get the deep dark on everything. They’ll certainly be mortified when they learn what’s going on with The Centrists. And should a faction war break out in full, they aspire to either coerce the Takers to their side or go all out in destroying them, in an effort to gather any and all information on the biased multiverse. For the rare times that the “Supreme Dean” or the Factol appears, he seems oddly friendly to those who share views with the Sinkers and The Dead. Factol Kjulgolor is eager to make them join the Acts of Balance.
The Lady’s Ward
A ward of all that is fancy and elite within the City of Doors. It is here where the truly high of society live and mingle. It’s also where the people of power gather. And near various edges, where one can find the prison, the armory and the barracks. Even the Temple of the Abyss hides within the safety of the Lady’s Ward and its protections.
Cirily isn’t the only Eladrin to fall within the confines of Sigil. A companion who followed her for years suffered a similar fate. Enter into the Pillar of Objets d’art, a posh society dedicated to obtaining and showcasing private collections. The pillared entryway gives the establishment its nickname, but its Satyr founder can be thanked for that style Geltorlo, a CN fallen Shiradi Eladrin, is currently in charge of such an organization. His interests are simple, obtain and organize the greatest of collections within the city. This would be fine if it wasn’t for an extra detail; how it’s all handled. In short, they have a demiplane backdoor that’s used for one purpose and one alone, time travel. The dangerous art is used to trade or even steal as a means of securing whatever is wanted to add to the collection. Once or twice, the very King of the Cross-trades has fallen victim to such a caper, all thanks to some space-time loopholes. Currently, such agents haven’t infiltrated this secretive and pompous group yet. The dark is that there’s not only a Demiplane of Time, but this secret society knows how to use it for their aims. Their slippery and elusive operations have allowed this white collar crime cross-trade to go about mostly unnoticed. Though, conflicts with Shemeshka have sparked gradual conflict. Currently, she’s just clued to the showcase building that’s purchased in the Dabus Square district of the ward.
Looking for proof that the elite of the Cage can be truly messed up? The High Chant Society is for you, if you can gain the means of entering. Should you know enough members willing to invite you and gain the proper sponsorship from at least one, you’ll have a shot at initiation. Now, what could this be? Simple, witnessing excruciating and depraved actions and powers taken out on some lesser dregs of society. Should the inductee show too much discomfort, their memories are erased and they’re forever banished. But, should they remain at least neutral, they’ll be invited to do wretched things to the victim. Fail to join and it’s the same as showing the discomfort. Take part? And from there, membership is granted. And as a member, one gains access to all sorts of sinister things. Many have found ways to freely warp themselves through profane and vile rituals; decadence to celebrate their high station. They say fiends make up their ranks, but it’s merely corrupted mortals. Though, some sing high praises to the Lower Planes all the same. To them, they make the rules and you follow them. And should you not follow them, they’ll have use for you yet.
The Temple District is obviously all about temples dedicated to various powers. However, one example on the hush is the Temple of Tchernobog. The Wanderer to Bind Dimensions is a Power that would be frowned upon by The Lady, should her forces find too much of their doings. As such, they operate literally underneath The Shaded Halls, a meeting grounds cloaked in darkness. Rooms can be rented out for private discussions. These meetings are magically warded and protected from outside listeners. To little surprise, the halls are protected from everyone except the Cult of Tchernobog. Within UnderSigil, the cabal operates in practice of their eldritch master. It is there belief that even Sigil itself can be bound and manipulated. And even should the Power itself be defeated, its method of continuing involves selecting either a devotee or a member who killed the last incarnation. Their essence is devoured and influences the next form of Tchernobog. One rogue member was supposed to be the next in-line, but he vanished after his own patron betrayed him.
IMAGE CREDIT: Elisa Shigehiro – Sigil the City of Doors