Performance Check

Planescape Faction Backgrounds – The Red Death and Sensates

Last week, I received a request to tackle the Mercykillers and the Society of Sensation as my next Planescape faction backgrounds. This was a timely request. One player is playing a member of the Mercykillers (he took Soldier as a background, with the understanding he might swap out of it later when this was available), and one has talked openly of joining the Society of Sensation. With that sort of serendipity, how could I say no? I think that might make me a member of the Transcendent Order. As before, without specific requests I will continue to approach these in alphabetical order in the future. Without further ado, I hope these meet the needs of the Red Death and the Sensates.

Planescape Faction Backgrounds: Athar and Believers of the Source | Mercykillers and Society of Sensation

Mercykillers

You have spent your life as a member of the Mercykillers. You have internalized their motto: “Justice is everything. When properly applied, punishment leads to perfection.” The amount of punishment should be commensurate to the amount of injustice that was performed. Many have incorrectly assumed the faction is dedicated to showing mercy – far from it. The Red Death – as they are frequently known – is instead resolved to stamp out all mercy in the multiverse. Mercy leads to lenience. Lenience leads to the same behaviors occurring without end. It is only through punishment that good and law can win out over evil and chaos. However, this justice and punishment must be in accordance with the law. The laws of a land might be too lenient, and therefore it is up to Mercykillers to understand the importance of true justice in the absence of established legal justice. Their preference is to work within the laws and have the laws reflect justice, but if that is not the case then the laws should be changed and worked around until that occurs. If a law is unjust, it is not worthy of enforcement.

The Mercykillers headquarters in Sigil is located in the Prison. Here, the Mercykillers can ensure that justice is appropriately meted out. Unlike many of the factions of Sigil, the Mercykillers enjoy a direct relationship with the Lady of Pain. Where there is someone in Sigil that causes the Lady of Pain displeasure or concern, the Mercykillers are mobilized to pursue this individual. While within Sigil, the Mercykillers patrol the streets of Sigil to uphold law and order. Outside of Sigil, the Mercykillers work within the systems of their locales for the same. Have you spent your time as one of the jailers within the Prison? Were you someone who committed a crime and joined the Mercykillers after serving out your punishment? Do you patrol the streets of Sigil? Or do you wander the planes, looking to root out injustice and ensure order is enforced?

Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Investigation
Tool Proficiencies: Thieves’ Tools
Languages: One of your choice
Equipment: A set of thieves’ tools confiscated from someone who was using them illegally, a hooded lantern, a set of common clothes, 50’ of hempen rope, a vial of antitoxin, manacles, a signal whistle, a whetstone, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp

Feature: Laws of the Land
As a Mercykiller, you are expected to know the laws – and punishments – of most locations in the multiverse. You can reasonably expect to know the laws of any given plane, gate town, or domain. There are always strange and exotic locations – even to denizens of the planes – that might be too obscure to be readily known, but these are the exception rather than the rule. Knowing the laws affords you the respect and courtesy of the local bureaucracy and constabulary – should any exist. This can come in handy should you or an associate be accused of a crime, or to achieve other goals while working within the system.

Suggested Characteristics

Mercykillers rely on laws and their sense of justice. They alone can understand what true justice means, and the importance of it. Mercykillers will often come to loggerheads with authorities and administrators that perpetuate laws and punishments that do not fit their views. There is also no room for leniency or weakness in the eyes of the Mercykillers. They must enforce punishment to bring law and good to the planes, or have them forever be wreathed in evil and chaos. Their views make them heroes to some, and uncaring villains to others. Either way, there is usually little question as to how a Mercykiller will interpret a given situation.

 

d8 Personality Trait
1 It is the small instances of injustice that lead to the large, and I will stop injustice early.
2 I am more adept at learning and discussing the laws than enforcing them.
3 When laws are not just, I seek to change them.
4 I excel at enforcing punishment.
5 I pride myself on my ability to know the exact punishment for the level of injustice.
6 The key to enforcing laws is to ensure a just ruler presides over them.
7 I believe those who show leniency are in part responsible for the crimes committed by those who were shown it.
8 Justice and goodness are not relativistic concepts, but concrete ideals I will share with others.

 

d6 Ideal
1 Exact. I must be precise and specific in all things. (any)
2 Enforcement. It is up to me to enforce laws and punishment. (any)
3 Law. Only through understanding what exists can I know what works and what doesn’t. (Lawful)
4 Just. Knowing what is just is more important than anything else. (Lawful)
5 Order. I desire the eradication of evil and the triumph of good. (Good)
6 Stoicism. I must attain aloof so I can maintain perspective. (any)

 

d6 Bond
1 Someone who greatly wronged me remains at large, and I must punish them.
2 My jailer gave me the opportunity to change my life after I served my time, and I owe her everything.  
3 An unjust ruler was deposed by the Mercykillers, and I left my home to serve them in my gratitude.
4 I seek to change a law that it unjustly impacting those I love.
5 The Mercykillers spared my life, calling my death unjust. Now I seek to ensure them I am worthy.
6 I have seen evil flourish too often, and only the Mercykillers are doing anything about it.

 

d6 Flaw
1 I will never show mercy or leniency.
2 My duty is to the law and justice above all else.
3 Even violations of a just law for the greater good must be punished.
4 I have no respect for people or institutions I consider unjust.
5 I am immovable once I have internalized my opinion on the situation.
6 My belief in what is good and just is the final word.

 

Society of Sensation

As a member of the Society of Sensation, you believe that the only way to know anything is to experience it. The multiverse is no exception. Research through texts or conversations can be useful tools for contextualization, but they are only a single step on the path to truth. The rest of the senses must be fully engaged to reveal the truth of things. However, there are some sensations that should be avoided for your own health. To that end, the members of the Society of Sensations – commonly known as Sensates – deposit their memories within the Society of Sensation libraries – called sensoriums – located around the planes as they travel. These memories are copied and sent to Sigil, where the Grand Sensorium is located.

The Society of Sensation headquarters in Sigil is located in the Civic Festhall. The Civic Festhall plays host to a series of festivals and entertainments seen nowhere else in the planes. These festivities are akin to training sessions for Sensates – opportunities to expand their experiences and thus grant them a better understanding of the multiverse. Do you only seek out experiences to revel in the pleasure? Are you someone who seeks out good and bad experiences in equal measure? Is it your primary goal to travel the planes and add to the Grand Sensorium?

Skill Proficiencies: Perception, Persuasion
Tool Proficiencies: One Artisan’s Tool or Musical Instrument of choice
Languages: One of your choice
Equipment: Your tool or musical instrument of choice, a set of fine clothes, a vial of perfume, a mess kit, and an hourglass

Feature: Library of Experience
As a member of the Society of Sensation, so long as you remain in good standing you are able to access the sensoriums located around the planes – including the Grand Sensorium located in Sigil. There, you are able to access memories and experiences that might provide insight into your current research or situation. There is always the danger that you will be unprepared for these experiences or be unable to contextualize them. Despite this, they are likely to benefit you in some way. However, it is expected that you contribute to the sensoriums in kind in order to continue to access them.

Suggested Characteristics

Sensates are all about the experience. Without experiencing it, many Sensates are unwilling to admit that something is true. This obstinance in the face of what many consider to be irrefutable evidence can lead to clashes that are not easily resolved. On the other hand, the way the Sensates seek to experience everything is difficult to understand by those who do not adhere to their beliefs. In spite of these potential hurdles, the Society of Sensation is highly sought after by those looking to hire someone to aid them in all manner of endeavors. Sensates are often quite willing to undertake tasks that are obviously dangerous or are of questionable morality just to experience it. However, the Sensate isn’t necessarily bound not to influence or negatively impact such endeavors. If the Sensate concludes through experience that the task should not be completed, there is nothing stopping the member from sabotaging the task. Being known as a faction of risk takers and hedonists has its advantages and disadvantages, to be sure.

 

d8 Personality Trait
1 It is important to me that others experience what I experience.
2 It is not the experiences themselves I enjoy, but the knowledge it grants me.
3 Experiences are nothing without context, and I seek to contextualize everything.
4 Physical experiences teach me more than mental or emotional experiences.
5 I seek to experience as much as possible to expand the Grand Sensorium to bring knowledge to others.
6 Only through emotional experiences can I achieve enlightenment.
7 I try and divorce myself from my previous experiences when I encounter something new.
8 Pleasure is experience.

 

d6 Ideal
1 Touch. I will be able to know all things in full through touch alone.(any)
2 Taste. Cuisine tells us more about people and places than anything else, and I seek to become an expert. (any)
3 Sight. Observation is the most important part of experience, and one should rarely get involved (Neutral)
4 Smell. Everything has a particular scent, and is through the memory and processing of these scents that knowledge is made clear (any)
5 Sound. There is an underlying song played in the multiverse, and the individual sounds all things contribute to it. I seek to master the song. (any)
6 Emotion. Evoking the perfect emotion from myself and others is the key to understanding how the multiverse works. (any)

 

d6 Bond
1 I experienced something I cannot explain, and the Society of Sensation has offered to help me understand it.
2 A loved one was a Sensate, and I seek to experience the life they lived to better understand them.
3 I have swapped places with someone, and must better understand them to pull it off.
4 I seek to reveal the truth of a lie that has impacted those I care about.
5 My trust has been broken by someone, and now I must experience things for myself.
6 Deep in the sensorium is a memory I must have, but I must first understand how it came to be.

 

d6 Flaw
1 The flesh knows best.
2 What harm is there in trying it just once?
3 If I haven’t seen it, I don’t believe it.
4 I lose sight of the greater goal when presented with new experiences.
5 If I have experienced it, then it is true and others must accept that.
6 The need for new experiences is an obsession that can escape my control.
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  • Charles Geringer

    Thanks for granting my request.

    How about Dustmen and Xaositects next?

    • Colin McLaughlin

      If no one else chimes in, sure! If they do, it’s only fair I accommodate others 😀

  • Manos Ti

    Although not that big of a Planescape fan, I love these. Plus, they are very easily adapted for use in my setting.

    Thanks!!!

  • Alex Mitchell

    I really like using factions as backgrounds. It’s a nice way to have the mechanics of the game acknowledge the setting and it cleverly positions the characters’ membership in these groups as a part of their past– characters may choose how they wish to interact with the factions going forward.

  • Wyvern

    I saw another take on this a while ago; it doesn’t include tables for suggested characteristics like yours does, but it does have rules for special ways to use Inspiration that was gained from adhering to Faction philosophy. Seems to me like a neat way to give each faction a unique mechanical benefit without making them OP compared to regular Backgrounds. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how your the two versions compare. You can find it by Googling “faction backgrounds” in quotes, and looking for the search result labeled “Jacob’s Personal Wiki”.

    (I tried posting a direct link, but my post said “waiting for approval by a moderator”, and when I checked back later it had vanished into the ether. That’s the third time that’s happened. I used to have no trouble posting comments here with links in them, and I’d really like to know why that’s changed and what can be done about it.)

    • Colin McLaughlin

      I’d be hesitant to do that because having more options available is always a power increase. Utility counts for a lot in all of the areas of play. Expand inspiration options to all backgrounds, or give inspiration more to do? Sign me up.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve done a lot with magic items and inspiration – though I am not sure I can share it in Tribality yet (published elsewhere last year). I’d have to look and see, or design more 🙂

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