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Planescape in 3e: Can it Happen?

Written by Brannon Hollingsworth & Ken Marable


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When Wizards of the Coast announced that it would no longer be supporting the Planescape Campaign setting, the reaction was, just as was the sentiment about the setting, split into two camps. One camp thought that it was literally, the end of the single best thing that had ever happened to role-playing, while the other half thought, 'Planescape? What's that?' or perhaps, 'Good riddance'. This has been the settings lot in life, it seems - either you are a die-hard fan of it and would rather play it before anything else, or you have never heard of it before, or perhaps you cannot stand its highbrow standard of role-playing requirements. So what does this division of attitude of the populace mean for an unsporting campaign setting now, in the present day world of Third Edition and an utterly role-playing feeding frenzy? Can the Planescape setting continue to be viable to role-players around the world at all? If so, does it have even the slightest glimmer of hope of re-capturing (or capturing initially) the eye of the dyed-in-the-wool role-player? Without a doubt it is the opinion of this author that the answer to that is simply, 'yes', and I happily will explain why.

Despite the supposed fact that Third Edition seems to herald in a new day for the hack-and-slash gamer, this new vista of role-playing also brings many aspects of what was the best of Planescape - thinking outside of the box of the typical "gaming stereotypes". It was always a basically understood treatise of Planescape that "no rules were sacred" and that "all boundaries are there to be crossed". Due to the very fact that Planescape was, at its very core, about journeying and exploring the planes of existence, one could count on the fact that what might be considered odd or unusual in any other setting. An archon and a pit fiend drinking in the same pub, for example, could be considered every day and common place in the Planescape setting. There are many aspects of Third Edition that are very similar in tone to this notion, and this coupling of ideas is something that may well lay the foundation for the resurgence of Planescape into the role-playing main stream.

Two examples of how Third Edition lends itself extremely well to Planescape are - prestige classes, and using monsters as PC races. In the past, even with multiclassing, classes seemed too limited in character options. With the introduction of prestige classes, that limitation has been blasted away. There are now countless opportunities for well-balanced prestige classes, and that expanse of possibility fits Planescape perfectly. Characters and NPCs can now specialize into any number of different kinds of professions. Secondly, with standardized rules for playing monsters as PC and NPC races enriches the Planescape setting beyond imagination. Not only can the archon and pit fiend be in the same pub together, but they might both be wizards comparing spells, or who knows what! A major aspect of Planescape was always how more than just the standard races were interesting and could develop into more than they were. Now it is possible to have nearly any monster race take class levels, allowing them to become whatever the DM can think of! The possibilities are incredible, and the Planescape setting for Third Edition is aligned to explore those possibilities like no other setting can.

Further, 3e brings with it an emphasis on the player as opposed to the DM. The concept of DM-centric view was an issue within Planescape before, and was a factor in its ultimate demise in the form of lessening sales. However, the new Official Products that will be released from the Official Planescape website, Planewalker.com, will not fall into this same trap. Out of the Year One Product list, only 2 out of the 5 products will be particularly DM focused. The rest are open for any gamer interested in role-playing in the planes. Our goal is to have the greater majority of all our products be open to either player or DM.


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