If you’re like me you’re probably a huge fan of the old Planescape setting, and I mean, what’s not to love? Eldritch beings, worlds of ideas and belief, and fifteen factions to wheel and deal with.
Those factions are probably one of the things Planescape is most known for, ranging from belligerent atheists in a world of gods and magic, to hedonistic sensation seekers. I won’t elaborate how I use the factions here (except a future blog post on this topic however!), but I will say that each of these factions can be joined by players and that each comes with its own perks and abilities.
When I started running my (incredibly) long running episodic Planescape campaign back in high school, I was using D&D 5e, and the faction abilities mostly took the form of thematic bonuses made up on the fly. When I switched the game over to Dungeon Crawl Classics I knew I wanted to codify the faction bonuses and penalties into a written set of rules that would at least be a little bit consistent, so that is what I present to you now.
These are a codification of a cobbled together homebrew game, so I do not claim that these are ‘balanced’ or ‘fair’ (and in fact I generally take a dim view of the concept of ‘balance’). These are also meant to represent the prowess of what are called “Namers”, which is to say “Faction members in name only”. This low level of commitment is where most adventurers tend to remain for the majority of their factioneering careers, being occupied as they are by constant adventure and planal plundering. These rules are also meant for use in conjunction with my “Heat and Crime” rules, which you can find here. I have presented alternate rules
I hope you enjoy these! and let me know if you get any use out of them for your game.
Planescape Faction Abilities for Dungeon Crawl Classic
These abilities represent the power of an “In name only” or “weekend” member of the factions. Full time members (factotums) and faction high ups (factors) will have additional or higher powered abilities.
1. The Athar
Ability: Whenever an Athar would be affected by a Cleric or other “Godly” spell less than or equal to their level, roll 1d6. On a roll of 1-2, the spell has no effect.
Penalty: See above, also the gods and their servants generally think poorly of you, giving -2 to reaction rolls when encountering god-bothering types.
2. Believers of the Source
Ability: Godsmen may take an additional artisan career when they join the order, and another artisan career every level after. Additionally they enjoy a good reputation across the planes, gaining +2 to reaction rolls. Finally, all Godsmen have free access to one of the greatest workshops in all of the universe for their personal projects and commissions (all at a fair price too!)
Penalty: Any spell that would resurrect a Godsmen instead reincarnates them, with all the difficulty that entails from that. When you ‘turn over the body’ of a dead Godsmen there’s a ⅛ chance that they are dead and have reincarnated somewhere in the planes.
3. The Bleak Cabal:
Ability: Bleakers are immune to all madness and confusion causing spells and effects, additionally, once per day then attempt to cause despair in another creature, forcing them to make a DC 15 + bleaker level will save or fall into despair. You also always have a free place to rest, eat and get resupplied!
Penalty: Every day, a bleaker has a 1 in 20 chance of falling into despair, becoming depressed, morose and basically useless for the whole day.
4. The Doomguard:
Ability: All Sinkers gain a +1 to hit and damage with any weapon that draws blood. Additionally, whenever they critically hit a foe of opposing alignment, that foe immediately drops to half health and then takes damage from the characters weapon (this work once per foe, and certain powerful creatures may get a saving throw). Finally, all sinkers can sift through destroyed material to get a sense of what it once was and even experience parts of its existence.
Penalty: The desire for destruction is strong within you, every day you don’t kill something, break something valuable or destroy something worthwhile, you gain a -1 penalty to all rolls. You are also innured to death, and so will basically never give help or assistance to the wounded or dying.
5. The Dustmen:
Ability: The Dead Truce means that all Dustmen are on good terms with the Undead giving you +2 to reaction rolls with the undead, you also can rather easily command the unintelligent types (or at the very least keep them from attacking you). Undead will even fight for you if you can give them enough of a reason or order them around willfully enough (don’t try this with a vampire cutter, you’re not that good).
Penalty: When your companions ‘Turn the body over’ to check if you are alive, you make the luck save at -4. You also only have a ½ chance of resurrecting when affected by a spell that brings you back to life.
6. The Fated:
Ability: A member of the Takers gains an additional career every time they level up, representing their work and effort broadening their range of skills. You also gain a +1 bonus to all saving throws.
Penalty: People tend not to like you that much berk…-2 reaction rolls in the City of Sigil, and any place in the planes leaning to the Lawful alignments (unless you yourself hold that lawful alignment, since you at least relentlessly pursue greater power according to the rules). You also lose the ability to spend luck points after a roll, you must declare all luck you are spending on a roll first.
7. The Fraternity of Order
Ability: Once per week, you may declare that “You know a secret law of existence” and may replicate a spell, mighty deed or similar effect of a level equal to or less than your own, rolling as though you were a wizard, cleric or warrior of the same level. These feats may seem hackneyed or a bit deus-ex-machina but you’re literally exploiting a loophole in the universe! You also can navigate Sigils bureaucracy decently well which is a feat all its own.
Penalty: After you utilize a given loophole, you gain a cumulative 10% chance that the universe corrects the loophole every subsequent time you try to exploit it. A corrected loophole tends to come with some retaliatory effect to the one who discovered it, ranging from minor inconveniences to deadly assaults by extraplanar guardians
8. The Free League
Ability: A solid discount on all prices, as well as a generally good reputation (those cutters aint too bad…decent folk those indeps) so +2 to reaction rolls with most ‘normal’ folks and those with a neutral alignment. Additionally, gain a bonus equal to your level when saving against any mind-altering spell. Finally, you can determine most folks’ faction membership by sight alone, unless they’re really trying to hide it.
Penalty: All Free Leaguers have a permanent +1 to their Heat when in the City of Sigil, or in any place with a solidly lawful ethos.
Alternate Penalty: All Free Leaguers are at a permanent -2 to reaction rolls with the Harmonium, as well as the forces of the Law on any solidly lawful plane.
9. The Harmonium
Ability: All Hardheads may add their luck modifier to hit and damage with a weapon of their choice. Their dedication to their code and their duty also grant a Hardhead a bonus to saves against mind-altering magics equal to their level. Hardheads may also seek membership in the Sigil City Guard. Finally, Harmonium members may cast the cleric spell command against members of a lower rank than them.
Penalty: You have orders to follow cutter, and the Harmonium runs a right ship. Illegal activity within Sigil is strictly forbidden, and you are obligated to follow orders. And if you want to defy them…well, look at your faction ability berk, Your higher ups won’t be shy about using it.
10. The Mercykillers
“The Red Death”
Ability: The Red Death will outfit its members with any mundane weapons and armor of their choosing. All Mercykillers are also able to once a day declare that the next blow they are swinging is “for justice” (The player at the table must loudly declare this as well) and may decrease their hit points by any amount and add that to their hit and damage roll.
Penalty: You must always uphold the tenets of the Mercykillers, and if you break them, you immediately lose your power and privileges. Also, you’re one scary berk, with all the good and bad that brings.
11. The Revolutionary League
Ability: All Anarchists may use Thief skills at a bonus equivalent to a Thief at ½ of their level. (thieves are instead considered 1 level higher for the purposes of their abilities only). You also can find a safehouse of the League nearly anywhere with enough looking (roll 1-3 on a 1d7).
Penalty: Gain a permanent +1 to all heat rolls anywhere, as well as a -1 reaction roll on any non-chaotic plane. People don’t trust you cutter, sorry.
Alternative Penalty: You have a -2 penalty to all reaction rolls, and a -3 to all reactions with the forces of Law. People don’t trust you cutter, sorry.
12. The Sign of One
Ability: All signers can safely create an object or minor environmental change they can imagine once a week. For every additional object they wish to conjure, they must make a DC 10 will save, with the DC increasing by 1 for every object they have imagined into existence. The complexity (and usefulness) of the imagined objects and changes enerally increase as a Signer gains in level.
Penalty: Failing the aforementioned will save can have a variety of negative effects, from summoning an undesirable object, to causing unexpected effects, all the way up to imagining nightmarish creatures or even the dreaded ego death!
13. The Society of Sensation
Ability: You gain the ability to see in the dark up to 30′. Whenever you are surprised, roll 1d6, you are only surprised on a roll of 1-2. You also gain a +2 bonus to one saving throw of your choice, representing your enhanced senses in a particular area.
Penalty: You are always eager to seek out new sensory experiences, which tends to drive you to take risks that others may see as unnecessary. You also receive a -1 penalty to resist mind or will altering magics.
14. The Transcendent Order
Ability: Gain +1 to AC, Damage, All Saves, Hit Dice, Spell Rolls, Skill Checks, and To-Hit Rolls
Penalty: Anything that the player declares their character does (even jokingly or offhandedly) must occur in game. A player who tries to weasel their way out of this too much may have their way, but the faction ability is immediately negated until they begin acting in accordance with the Order’s ethos.
15. The Xaositects
Ability: All Chaosmen can speak the Babble, a unique language that can only be understood by other Chaosmen. Every day when the Chaosman wakes up he possesses a new random spell that he can cast for that day as if he was a wizard of equivalent level. These spells tend to be focused on illusion, confusion and other such tomfoolery. Finally, Chaosmen are adept at locating lost items (but only if they are actually lost and not hidden, and this gives no roll or ability check, the universe just has a way of working out for them)
Penalty: You’re barmy! The GM is encouraged to inflict you with random whims, desires and cravings that you must work hard to resist.
And here is the link to the pdf download!